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  📖

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).

APM Introduction to Programme Management 2016 📖

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

Are you looking to take the step up to programme management? We can help     BLOG   
What are the main challenges for project managers who are looking to step up and engage in a career in programme management?... read more

Projects, programmes and portfolios, so what is the difference?    BLOG   
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

Are your programmes getting enough integration?     BLOG   
Sometimes a broader approach to programme management is required. Programmes bring together related projects, which helps the programme manager manage interdependencies between these projects, facilitates control of resources, manage risks and identify opportunities to drive efficiencies... read more

Risk in programme management      BLOG   
Risk has an upside and downside that presents opportunities and threats. Programme management is to maximise the impact of opportunities whilst minimising the impacts of threats on the benefits delivered... read more

Seven top tips for programme management     BLOG   
The human working (short term) memory can usually (just about) cope with seven items. So why not have seven top tips for programme management?... read more


Project management and productivity review
How does project management relate to productivity? There is recently renewed policy, practice and research interest in the topic of productivity... read more

Report: Project management for large, complex projects     RESOURCE   
This expert report on project management was commissioned by the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry to address general issues about the nature, purpose and application of project management... read more

Project studies: What it is, where it is going?     RESOURCE   
This paper proposes a new framework for project research, the project studies framework, containing three levels of analysis and three types of research... read more

Projectification in western economies: a comparative study of Germany, Norway and Iceland     RESOURCE   
This paper tests and confirms a common assumption that projectification is increasing in companies, economic sectors and whole economies in the western world... read more

Find resources to manage projects

APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

You can read more about projects, programmes and portfolios in chapter one and two of the 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.

The seventh edition continues in the spirit of previous editions, collaborating with the project community to create a foundation for the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios. 

APM Body of Knowledge

APM Introduction to Programme Management 2nd edition

APM Introduction to Programme Management 2nd edition





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APM Programme Management Specific Interest Group (SIG)

The programme management SIG is focused on the delivery of change within an organisation or environment.

APM programme management SIG

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