Programme management


Programme management is the coordinated management of projects and change management activities to achieve beneficial change.


A programme usually starts with a vision of a changed organisation and the benefits that will accrue from the change. Delivering the changed organisation will involve coordinating a number of projects and ensuring that their outputs are used to deliver benefits. This will require change management of business-as-usual activities.

Typically, the desired benefits are initially identified within a business case that justifies the necessary investment. A detailed specification of the end state of the programme is called a blueprint. However, the scale of programmes and the impact of a dynamic business environment mean that intermittent or regular redefinition may be required.

The core programme management processes are:

  • project coordination: identifying, initiating, accelerating, decelerating, redefining and terminating projects within the programme. Managing interdependencies between projects, and between projects and business-as-usual activities;
  • transformation: taking project outputs and managing change within business-as-usual so that outputs deliver outcomes;
  • benefits management: defining, quantifying, measuring and monitoring benefits;
  • stakeholder management and communications: ensuring that relationships are developed and maintained, thus enabling productive, two-way communication with all key stakeholders.

Responsibility for these components lies with three key roles: a programme sponsor, a programme manager and business change managers.

The sponsor is accountable for achievement of the business case and providing senior-level commitment to the programme.

The programme manager is responsible for day-to-day management of the programme including the coordination of projects and change management activities.

Business change managers are responsible for successful transition and benefits realisation.

A programme management methodology can be used to provide the complete governance structure for management of a programme. Such methodologies typically provide:

  • process models based around a programme life cycle;
  • an organisation structure with defined roles and responsibilities;
  • templates for documentation;
  • guidelines for adapting the methodology to different situations.

The benefits of using a methodology for programmes are the same as for projects. Ideally, the projects within the programme will all use a common (but flexible) methodology that is consistent with the programme’s methodology.

Many organisations either tailor open methodologies, such as Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), or develop their own bespoke approaches.

Corporate programmes tend to be complex, lengthy and initially ambiguous as to the eventual outcomes. Instability within an organisation's environment (e.g. market changes) can often affect the outcomes envisaged for the end of a programme.

In order to balance the cumulative impact of changes, a programme should be divided into tranches. The programme can then be reviewed at the end of each tranche. Ideally, each tranche should deliver a self-sustainable amount of beneficial change in its own right.

Figure 1.3: Programme tranches

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