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Programmes and programme management

By Simon Buehring on 01 Jul 2020

Programme management in demand.

Organizations are under increased pressure to transform and adapt. Those that can adapt are more likely to survive. Programme management helps organizations manage such transformations.

This article provides a brief overview of programmes and programme management and why both are important to organizations.

If you are considering a programme management career, then an understanding of programme management frameworks and program management certification is usually required.

If you came to this page looking for program management courses then you can visit our MSP course page for more details.

If programme management sounds interesting to you, read on for more information!

What is a programme?

A programme is a temporary organization set up to coordinate and direct a set of related projects. Projects are also temporary but usually for shorter durations than programmes. Projects deliver outputs – or products. Programmes deliver outcomes. A project may or may not be part of a programme.

A temporary, flexible organization created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organization’s strategic objectives. [1]

What is programme management?

The action of carrying out the coordinated organization, direction and implementation of a dossier of projects and transformation activities (i.e. the programme) to achieve outcomes and realize benefits of strategic importance to the business. [2]

Programme management and project management are complimentary approaches. Within a programme, projects are initiated, executed and closed. The programme coordinates these projects. However, programme management does not remove the need for effective project management.

Alignment of 3 critical business areas

programme management aligns 3 business areas.

Programme management aligns 3 critical business areas: corporate strategy, delivery mechanisms for change and the ongoing business as usual (BAU).

There will inevitably be a tension between these 3 elements and program management must manage these tensions in order to deliver the transformational change that meets the organization’s needs.


The programme’s projects deliver the products and solutions which will enable the business changes to come about. Programme management manages the transition of these products into the business as usual environment. This is done by organizing things into more manageable chunks (tranches) with review points for monitoring progress, assessing performance and benefits realization.

Competing resources

Typically, inside an organization there will be competing demands for resources and programme management must provide a framework to enable the resources to be utilized effectively across all the projects within the program.

Programmes often involve changes to the culture and style of an organization and therefore programmes need to recognize the human factors involved in such transformations.

Programme management success factors

With competing demands for resources between the program’s projects and the operational side of the business, and with potentially complex inter-dependencies and competing priorities to resolve, there will be many risks inherent within any programme.

The change promised by a programme is unlikely to be delivered without the following in place:

  • Board/executive level support
  • Strong leadership
  • Realistic expectations of the organization’s capacity and ability to change
  • Strong focus on benefits
  • Blueprint of the future capability
  • Well-defined and well-communicated vision
  • Ongoing engagement of stakeholders

To assist the organization in leading and managing programmes it makes sense for the organization to adopt a well-established programme management framework to assist in achieving the above.

The programme management environment

External influences

Organizations are shaped and influenced by a myriad of external and internal factors. Take climate change as an example. International agreements about CO2 emissions influence government policy and strategies.

Defining programmes

Programmes are then defined, scoped and prioritized to implement the desired outcomes. Each programme entails several projects that will create new products or services. These projects produce outputs. For example, the destruction of coal-powered power stations; new wind and solar generation; new electric public transport; public awareness campaigns; or, fiscal policies to reduce fossil fuel usage.

Coordination of projects

Within a programme, the projects require coordination and direction. The outputs of the projects must be transitioned into operational use and these will enable the changes and outcomes to come about (e.g. lower use of fossil fuels for electricity generation).

The strategic benefits (i.e. reduction in CO2 emissions) can be measured after these outcomes have been achieved. The realization of these benefits in turn, will likely become one of the factors which influence further strategies and initiatives.

how programme management fits in organisations


Programme management is increasingly being used to help both governments and businesses transform the ways they do business. Programmes are the lifeblood for organizations in today’s competitive world.

Professionals with an understanding of programme management frameworks such as MSP can boost their career by gaining certification. In the UK especially, MSP is the preferred programme management certification.

If you are currently a project management professional, then I would suggest that moving into a programme management role is a natural career progression. With relatively few people already certified in MSP, having programme management certification on your CV can certainly differentiate you from many of your competitors in the jobs market.


[1] Rod Sowden, Martin Wof, Garry Ingram, Geof Leigh (2013). Managing Successful Programmes. 4th ed. Norwich: The Stationary Office Limited. 301.

[2] Rod Sowden, Martin Wof, Garry Ingram, Geof Leigh (2013). Managing Successful Programmes. 4th ed. Norwich: The Stationary Office Limited. 301.

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