To use a musical analogy, Project Management is about getting a set of related instruments, such as the violins, to play together well. Programme Management is conducting the whole orchestra in harmony to create the symphony.
Q: What does a Programme Manager do?
A: Provides overall oversight for multiple related projects to ensure inter-project integration and communication while managing the implementation strategy to deliver the program of projects, preferably on time and within budget, in a way that realises the target business benefits and contributes to strategic objectives of the programme and organisation.
The Programme Management role encompasses:
Oversight: Retaining day-to-day communication with the various project teams, identifying and managing inter-project integration points, ensuring adherence to sound project management practices and providing remedial advice for at-risk project elements.
Integration: A number of projects running in parallel can mean that things quickly get out of hand. Setting priorities, co-ordinating interdependencies and integrating activities and resources, prevents duplication of effort and delays. However its done, its important that such interdependencies are recognised, so that activities stay focused on overall business objectives and not on each project to the detriment of the others.
Communications: The importance of communications can't be overemphasised. Programme Management involves setting up and maintaining the communications with all stakeholders to ensure understanding of the business objectives, the target business benefits and each stakeholder's role in achieving these. This requires a relevant vertical reporting structure from the Project Teams through to executive management as well as a horizontal reporting structure across the project cluster. In particular, helping clear the path for Project Managers, so that they can concentrate on the project work is important. More projects have foundered or blown out due to poor communications than any other factor, and with a Programme of projects, the need to communicate early and often is even greater.
Delivery Strategy: Assessing and advising on Programme scope change and project priorities to maintaining overall Programme strategy.
Benefits Management: Programme Management concentrates on the outcomes, the end product, not just the project process. Progress is monitored in the light of expected benefits. A project that gets to the end on time and within budget is not much good if it doesn't also produce useful benefits to the business. Some projects take on a life of their own, with those involved unwilling to change course or cancel, even if the business requirements have changed. Programme Management demands a diplomatic but firm approach to keep project efforts on a productive course.
Stakeholder Management: Projects can be difficult because users keep changing their requirements! Welcome to the real world where change is part of the fabric. Programme Management's role is to be aware of these changing requirements and, subject to managing scope creep, incorporate them into the projects where they reflect changes in business objectives. Ensuring that stakeholders understand what is going on, whay it is going on and establishing useful feedback loops is part of delivering benefits to the business.
Change, Issue and Risk Management: Because Programme Management deals with the wider business objectives, it also sees change, issues and risk in the wider context of the business as a whole. While each project will have issues and risk to manage, Programme Management looks at issues and risks arising from the interdependencies between projects at the milestone level and also at the risks to achieving business objectives and business benefits. For example, if projects are building systems in a fast-changing market, the Programme Manager may need to redirect efforts part way through to take advantage of new developments.
and the Programme Manager also ...
Manages external consultants & supplier relationships
Supports individual project on as 'as needed' basis
Attends Steering Group meetings and reports on project status, risks and issues
Provides overall management and assists with planning, administering and controlling projects
Sources and provides resources for projects as required
Addressess and resolves road blocks to project progress
Champions the project within the user community
Facilitates timely decision making in key areas to enable smooth progress of the project
Manages the project budget' including software licensing and consulting, hardware, database and other IT resources
Manages Changes, Issues and Risks escalated by Project Managers
Facilitates supplier contract negotiations
Communicates relevant information to project management and project teams
Facilitates conflict resolution
Programme Management is more than overseeing a number of projects; it is about integrating a suite of projects to ensure the focus is on delivering the project objectives and target benefits to the business. Programme Management is the linkage that motivates the delivery of projects to achieve strategic objectives, generate business benefits and fulfill on the organisation's purpose.
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'Programme Management Framework' by Ian Howard (32kb .pdf Document)