Programme management - an introduction (part 1)

Gabor Vis van Heemst - Change is part of everyday life. People change their place of residence or work, children leave home or the garden is changed; it’s part of life. The increasing social environment appears to bring us more choices, and these lead to more changes, which follow one another in ever-faster succession. This is also the case in organizations. Globalization, increased competition and changes in clients’ demands are just a few examples businesses are faced with. As the saying goes ‘change is the only constant’.

But the implementation of change is not easy. Change always involves risks and disadvantages, as well as advantages. They are dependent on many other factors; as soon as you change one item, you have to change the other factors too. Various parties are also involved, with different interests and priorities. Many changes are unsuccessful, cause much more trouble or are seen with hindsight to be more painful than necessary. There is, therefore, a clear need for a method of implementing change and thus increasing the chance of success. Programme management is such a method for successful and structured change implementation.

Project versus Programme

But first; both projects and programmes deliver change to an organization, but there is a fundamental difference between a project and a programme. Based on the book ‘Project management based on PRINCE2’ the following definition of a project is being used:

  • A temporary organization created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to a specified Business Case

The Executive is ultimately responsible for exploiting the outcome and achieving the projected benefits. The benefits are only realized once the project has been closed. A programme on the other hand is more than simply delivering an outcome. With a programme there is also the responsibility of achieving the benefits or part of the benefits during the course of the programme. A programme is defined as:

  • A portfolio of projects and activities that are co-ordinated and managed as an unit to achieve one or more predefined strategic objectives

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