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

Types of Programs in Program Management

Martin went on to define programs by their business contribution and lists four main types: Strategic; Key Operational; High Potential; and Support.

"Strategic" programs are about delivering assets unique to that organization and directly linked to that area where the organization plans to compete. The nature of its classification begins to define the kind of benefits we are anticipating from the program, and the balance of priorities in the shape of its delivery. The "Key Operational" program, on the other hand, will deliver assets on which an organization is critically dependent for the performance of its day-to-day operations. All organizations engaged in a similar industry will have the same or similar programs. Programs can easily move from strategic to key operational as the market and competition catch up. Key operational projects are therefore usually driven by the benefits of improved business effectiveness, whilst strategic ones are driven by business innovation and change, and are likely to involve the restructuring of key business processes.

"High Potential" programs are concerned with the delivery of assets of an uncertain value such as R&D projects. This is where we may test out ideas of future strategic use. These programs are usually driven by the creation of future opportunities for business change. "Support" programs provide assets that are valuable, but not essential to the organization. The definition of a support program is unique to each organization; one organization's support asset might well be another's key operational asset. Support programs are usually driven by business efficiency gains.

This is summarized in Figures 3 and 4.


High Potential

Projects delivering assets
critical to achieving the
organizational strategy

Projects delivering assets
which may be crucial to the
future organizational strategy

Projects delivering assets
on which the organization
will be critically dependent

Projects delivering assets which
are valuable but not crucial to organizational success

Key Operational Support


Figure 3. The Program Portfolio, taken from Martin Davies' paper


High Potential

Business Innovation and Change
Business Process Structuring

Creating Opportunities for
Business Change
(Proving the potential benefits)

Business Effectiveness Process Rationalization and Integration

Business Efficiency Process
Elimination and Cost Reduction

Key Operational


Figure 4. Project benefit Drivers, taken from Martin Davies' paper
What is a "Program of Projects" and what Types are There?  What is a "Program of Projects" and what Types are There?

Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Search My Site | Site Map | Top of Page Top of Page