Programme Management - Best Practice Models and Strategic Deployment

Rod Bisset
Structured and industry standard best-practice programme management frameworks are essential to the smooth execution of company programmes, strategies and objectives and to achieve the required results expected from programme sponsors.

They are also a core framework for good programme managers to deliver the programme. Programme management can be described as the co-ordinated organisation, direction and implementation of a portfolio of projects and activities that together achieve outcomes and realise the benefits that are of strategic importance to a business. Effective and efficient programme management is the key success factor to any organisation to transform the company’s vision and various inter-related strategic objectives spanning across different areas such as project delivery, processing and so forth.

A number of programme management frameworks exist within industry; for example, Project Management Institute (PMI) based Standard for Programme Management (SPM) framework, The Stationary Office, UK Government (TSO) based Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) framework, to name just a few.

However, few companies follow these frameworks, even though they offer a number of benefits, as many organisations need a programme management framework tailored to their own requirements.

PMI Based SPM Framework Approach

The SPM framework delivers benefits by developing new capabilities or enhancing current capabilities. Programmes are initiated for achieving organisational goals and strategic objectives that are so large scale that they cannot be achieved by a single project.

Programme Governance and Stakeholder Management: This area spans all programme life cycle phases. Programme governance provides oversight to the progress of the programme and the delivery of the coordinated benefits from its component parts.

The SPM framework delivers benefits by developing new capabilities or enhancing current capabilities.

Programme stakeholder management identifies how the programme will affect stakeholders, for example, the culture of the company, how it affects the local population, is the country-specific culture affected – the UK is not averse to new nuclear whilst Germany is, resistance or barriers to change, bureaucracy. A stakeholder communication strategy is developed to engage with the target stakeholders to help manage their expectations and their acceptance of the programme objectives.

Programme stakeholder management is required to establish the programme governance and inform the programme's organisational structure, which will be reviewed, monitored and reacted upon through the programme life cycle.

Programme Life Cycle: A typical programme life cycle consists of five phases (pre-programme preparations, programme initiation, programmes set-up, delivery of programme benefits, and programme closure). The end of each phase works as an entry point to the next phase, I like to call these points ‘islands of stability’.

During the programme life cycle stages, a good programme manager will communicate the programme's strategic benefit, develop the plan for the programme’s initiation, define the programme objectives and how it is configured to meet the organisation’s goals and vision. They will develop the high-level business case by clearly demonstrating the needs, business benefits, feasibility and justification of the programme, establishing the programme governance mechanism, the risk management protocols and the Level 1 programme schedule.

Programme Benefits Management: Benefits realisation planning is part of the programme management approach which aligns the interdependencies between benefits, strategic goals of the organisation, delivery scheduling, metrics and measurement, responsibility for delivery of the final and intermediate benefits within the programme and benefit realisation.

Programme Management Process Groups: The five programme management processes (initiation, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling and closing) are a skeleton by which we control programmes. These processes receive inputs from the process that precedes them and send outputs to latter ones. The guiding rule for applying programme management processes is to ensure that the programme manager effectively delegates authority, autonomy and responsibility for day-to-day management of the projects to the designated project managers.

Industry standard best-practice methodology provides a sustainable framework that is clear, concise, complete, relevant and identified as good practice on the most successful programmes.

The standard managing successful programmes approach is a double layered structure. The topmost or outer layer concentrates on programme principals like enabling the team, change leadership, picturing, adding value, and benefits management, alignment with corporate strategy, capability development and lessons learned. These principles are an important aspect in undertaking any transformation programme in any organisation and can be linked to my previous article on what makes a good programme manager.

The lower or inner core layer consists of programme management activities like programme development, organisation, stakeholder management, business case development, programme design, scope, planning & control including estimating, cost management, supply chain management, risk management, quality management, programme delivery, progress measurement, change control, and benefits realisation.


Many organisations are lacking standard programme management practice. In today's volatile economic and global environment and given the uncertainty of the times in which we live, it is very important to streamline programme management practice across the organisation. This will help to achieve a company’s vision, goals and strategic objectives in a systematic and logical manner. Industry standard best-practice methodology provides a sustainable framework that is clear, concise, complete, relevant and identified as good practice on the most successful programmes.

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