Programme Management - the Delivery Tool of Change

Hanel Parmar
The drivers for change that are prevalent in the industry today provide a framework in which programme management services have the potential to thrive.

Programme management can provide the skills to ensure that organisations lead the way in managing innovation and transition in line with corporate governance and strategy. In an environment where keeping strictly within governance is becoming more & more important, the framework principles offered by the process: Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), can give a client a flexible and robust method of managing projects and activities in order to realise the benefits related to their strategic objectives.

Programme management can provide the skills to ensure that organisations lead the way in managing innovation and transition...

Programme management is used in most sectors. For example a motor company would implement a programme of works to deliver global or regional solutions for vehicle ordering within the dealerships. The primarily IT based programme would determine firstly the high level business vision: I want to be able to order a car to a particular specification and receive confirmation of the order within 60 seconds. I also want the tool to be global so that it can be implemented in any region or market.

Subsequently the programme would manage the individual projects to scope, define, test and deliver the solutions to meet the overall strategic objective. In this case the objective is customer experience and satisfaction. The dealer has the ability to confirm quickly to the customer that their prized possession is ordered and soon to be on its way to its new owner.

Education on programme and portfolio management within the construction industry is in my opinion lacking when compared to project management which is a well-established and understood service. The two should not be considered the same discipline under another banner as there are very distinct functions undertaken by both:

  • The ultimate goal of a programme is to realise outcomes and benefits of strategic relevance. To achieve this a programme is designed as a temporary flexible organisation structure created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organisation’s strategic objectives. A programme is likely to have a life that spans several years.
  • A project is usually of shorter duration (a few months perhaps) and will be focused on the creation of a set of deliverables within agreed cost, time and quality parameters.
  • The term portfolio is used to describe the total set of programmes and stand-alone projects undertaken by an organisation. Programmes usually require the commitment and active involvement of more than one organisation to achieve the desired outcomes. Programmes deliver, or enable, one or more benefits i.e. measurable improvement resulting from an outcome and perceived as an advantage by one or more stakeholders.
  • Programme management can provide a full life cycle approach to managing an ever shifting portfolio of programmes from inception and agreement of a blueprint through to the realisation of benefits.

Project Vs Programme Management delivery

It therefore follows that the person delivering the role of programme management has a different understanding and skill set to that of a project manager.

The programme manager is instrumental in developing and implementing the programme’s governance framework and must have strong leadership and management skills to ensure that the multi-faceted aspects of a programme are bought together to enable the transition required at the outset is successful.

Project management skills would be advantageous up to a point however programme management is a more flexible approach and requires greater vision and leadership from the outset to reconcile competing demands for resources and implement the governance framework.

Within the last 10 years, awareness of programme management and the services that can be offered has increased however there are still relatively few programme managers in the UK, compared to that of project and cost managers. Programme management historically has been provided by project managers batching similar projects together and delivering as one work package to offer efficiencies to the end client.

In the current economic climate, client requirement has seen a shift towards a management of portfolios and a more cohesive approach to align projects with the strategic objectives of the organisation, particularly so with American owned companies or larger international companies choosing to undertake a programme of works as against one-off projects. Raising awareness to the benefits of transitioning to a programme management role from another construction service offering needs to increase, as does awareness of the role for those new to the industry. The benefits of MSP are often underplayed which can have a detrimental effect on a client’s programme.

Route of entry

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) is the industry standard for programme management. This is published by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC). Most practitioners of MSP come from a background within the industry; such as project managers, quantity surveyors & building surveyors. At present there is no restriction on who can undertake a MSP qualification however; those with experience within the construction industry bring additional value and vital experience to MSP. For example, project managers are in a position to understand the importance of individual projects being on time and within budget however MSP knowledge, experience and qualification, can enhance this with an understanding of how each project and activity relates to the client organisation’s strategic direction and consequently ensure a consistent, cohesive programme of activity for the client.

Driving Forward

Faithful+Gould’s strategy of promoting our integrated services, from project management through to portfolio management, we hope will increase visibility and awareness of this service offering, enabling it to become more recognised within the UK industry.