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What is programme management?


Programme management is the coordinated management of projects and business-as-usual activities to achieve beneficial change

A programme is a unique and transient strategic endeavour undertaken to achieve a beneficial change and incorporating a group of related projects and business-as-usual activities.

Definition from APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

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Delivering programme change

Programmes are often defined as delivering change and would typically incorporate the full utilisation of benefits to satisfy the business case. They utilise capital expenditure to acquire assets, services, products and capability, alongside operating expense incurred as a result of performing normal business operations.

Shaping programmes requires the selection and framing of projects and other work in business-as-usual into a structure where benefits can be delivered incrementally over time. To shape a programme, the sponsor works with stakeholders as early as possible to establish:

  • a clear understanding of the desired future state – typically described as a ‘programme vision’;
  • how much risk investors are willing to tolerate in achieving their objectives (risk appetite).

Change programme vs. steady-state activities

Change programme vs. steady-state activities

Source: Introduction to programme management, 2nd edition

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Programme, planning and governance

Shaping the programme to accomplish the vision requires the sponsor and programme manager to select and organise projects and other business-as-usual activities. The programme manager is responsible for day-to-day management of the programme including the coordination of projects and change management activities.

Programme planning is always benefits led, and a programme deployment approach and life cycle are characteristically iterative to facilitate decisions about the optimal next steps.

Sometimes, governance of projects within programmes is set up independently to programme governance. Where this is the case project sponsors are part of the programme governance structure to ensure a continual focus on programme benefits and the alignment of priorities.

The programme board is a body that provides sponsorship and governance to a programme. The board will represent financial, provider and user interests.

Related reading

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Major programmes – unscrambling complex puzzles

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The grouping can be by geographical location, capability, customer type, etc, as determined by the organisation’s circumstances. The portfolio should be designed to maximise return on investment, maintain skills in the workforce, and to aid control of costs and benefits... read more.
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Are you looking to take the step up to programme management? We can help

What are the main challenges for project managers who are looking to step up and engage in a career in programme management? ... read more

What is the difference between, programmes, projects and products?

Do you know the difference between programmes, projects and products? The infographic below compares each against key elements to highlight their differences and how they might be applied.

APM Programme Management Interest Network

Programme management is focused on the delivery of change within an organisation or environment. The transition from projects delivering outputs to embedding new working practices as business as usual, requires a planned and systematic approach necessitating leadership, drive and commitment.

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APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

The APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition is a foundational resource providing the concepts, functions and activities that make up professional project management. It reflects the developing profession, recognising project-based working at all levels, and across all sectors for influencers, decision makers, project professionals and their teams. 

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