Alan Harpham, Chairman of the APM Group, UK

An update of a paper originally presented at The 16th International Project Management Association's World Congress in Berlin, 2002.

Copyright Alan Harpham.
Published here February 2003.

Abstract | Early Background of PM | Roles, Responsibilities | Why have PM?
Benefits | Program of Projects | Types of Programs | Impact of Differences | Part 2

Roles, Responsibilities and the 1990s

The key roles and responsibilities of project management are shown in Table 1.



Project Sponsor

• Manage the investment in the project
• Deliver the agreed success criteria
• Make the agreed return or cost savings

Project Manager

• Lead, direct and manage the project and project team, and
• Deliver the project deliverables to an agreed time, cost and quality/performance

Project User/Operator

• Operate the deliverables/assets, and
• Deliver the planned return or cost saving

Table 1. Key roles and responsibilities of project management

As can be seen from these roles, the idea of project success now needed more definition – namely success for whom? The project sponsor's success would depend upon the delivery of the project benefits to time, operating cost and performance. The project manager's success would continue to be measured in terms of delivery to agreed time, cost and quality. The users measure of success would be: "Did it work as we had planned, with an acceptably low level of breakdowns, and in a reasonably user friendly way?"

By the early 1990's, the buzz phrase was "Management by Project", and recognition of the need for all "general" managers to have knowledge and skills in project management in their "tool box" and that organizations would have portfolios of projects managing various changes. This has to a great extent come about and most UK MBA programs now contain some project management in their core programs. During the late 1980's and early 1990's the words "Program Management" entered the sphere of project management. The idea was to plug the gap in organizations between strategy and projects.

Programs were seen as the layer that converted the strategy into a coherent set of projects to achieve the strategy and corporate vision. Figure 1 shows in bar chart form the development of project and program management in the last 5 decades. The first definition of a program that I used was "a set of related projects with a common strategic goal or aim". Unlike projects, programs had no distinctive start or end, rather the strategy could be accelerated or slowed down, by introducing new projects, speeding up existing ones, slowing up new projects, or stopping existing and planned projects respectively. With program management came the idea that managing projects was a form of "change management" and that program management was a disciplined approach to managing change in organizations. Furthermore, the idea of benefits management came to a head with the project (and program) focus now being to deliver the benefits of the project (or program) rather than the project (or program) itself.

Figure 1. Bar chart showing development of project and program management
Figure 1. Bar chart showing development of project and program management

As a new millennium starts, both program management and benefit delivery are high on the program and project management community's agenda. Most chief executive officers now want to know when they will get the benefits and the forecast level of benefit, rather than when the project will be complete and at what cost. Processes and systems to answer these questions are still being developed and are far from maturity.

The UK's Association for Project Management formed a Special Interest Group (SIG) in program management a few year's ago and it has the highest membership of any of the current SIGs. The Office of Government Commerce in UK ( has recently developed and issued an approach to program management called "Managing Successful Programs" (MSP).[1] The APM Group has helped the OGC to establish a set of accredited trainers in MSP, together with an examination to test knowledge and experience of practitioners before they are awarded their accreditation (

Early Background  Early Background

1. Managing Successful Programs, published by The Stationary Office in 1999, ISBN 0 11 330016 6, produced by the CCTA, now the OGC (office of Government Commerce) in the UK
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