Is programme management only about change?

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Happy New Year to all ProgM members from the ProgM chair and committee. Several weeks ago we published the output from the strategy work at ProgM’s AGM. Among the suggested themes for 2011 was to look at the scope of programme management so I thought why not start off 2011 with something a little controversial.

To date, guidance and especially books on programme management (including the Gower Handbook of Programme Management which I co-authored) have focussed on its central role as the mechanism of managing change in an organisation. Quite right too as this is largely where programme management emerged when many found that project management methods of the day (and still today say I) were not designed for managing very large and complex change. In this blog I am not addressing the differences between “major projects” and programmes as we can have fun with that debate later.

What I am addressing in this blog is the question: is programme management only about change?

As an observation my own introduction to programme management in the very early 1990s in British Telecom (now BT) involved both change and business as usual programmes. At that time programme management was primarily seen as a financial control mechanism for channelling and managing the annual and multi-year budgets. Everything, yes I mean all, expenditure was contained in programmes. Change programmes were used, e.g. to introduce new technology. Business As Usual (BAU) programmes were used for operational activity. To manage the BAU, activities were assigned to annual projects, e.g. the roll-out of fibre-optic cable. This had been introduced and trialled in a change programme, e.g. to prove both the technology and its installation processes. Each geographic BT region had an annual project which set the installation target and budget for the year, hence qualifying them as precise projects with Time / Cost / Quality parameters. The overall national roll-out programme for fibre-optic cable installation was a multi-year BAU programme that [a] planned the entire roll-out, [b] managed the full-programme budget, [c] managed progress nationally, and [d] managed learnings from each region that could be applied nationally.
One other little observation, we also had an enterprise PMO to oversee the “portfolio”, although we did not call it that, and quite a mature one too which worked very closely with finance.

So for me the principle of operational (BAU) programmes is just fine, we just need some guidance to be developed, both generic and industry specific. So, here is a challenge…..any thoughts? Any challenges? Anyone like to help take this forward?

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Posted by Adrian Pyne on 4th Jan 2011

About the Author
Adrian is a consultant who’s practice for more than 20 years was the delivery or rescue of Change programmes and the design, build, operation of portfolio, programme and project management capability. Starting in telecoms he has worked in commercial and public sectors: e.g. investment/retail finance, central & local government, diversity, nano & energy technologies and mining. Adrian is a visiting lecturer at Nottingham & Kingston University Business Schools. He has always specialised in and championed the people aspects of our profession, notably stakeholder management and behaviour. In recent years much of his practice has focussed on developing cultures and organisations in which programmes and projects can thrive and not merely survive. Adrian has been a long time contributor to the APM, especially within ProgM, e.g. the BoK 6 refresh. He is a frequent speaker, in the UK and internationally, and is co-author of the Gower Handbook of Programme Management. Adrian is RPP certified and an RPP Assessor.

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