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

Why Have Program Management?

Program Management exists to bridge the gap between corporate strategy and projects. It enables that fundamental question to be asked before starting a project: "Where does it fit into the corporate strategy?" Figure 2 shows programs and the link between Strategy and Projects.

Figure 2. Making change happen

Figure 2. Making change happen

If it does not fit, then the project should not go ahead and the organization should not invest in the project. If it does, this will help to identify its overall priority and importance to the organization. This will help in the determination of the allocation of scarce resources between projects and between programs. The cancellation of projects that were not identifiable within the corporate strategic plan has proved painful for many organizations when the concept of program management has been introduced. Some of senior management's pet-projects have often had to be abandoned in the process.

Program management also allows for the top-down planning of programs and projects in a rational and coherent way. Projects can be slowed down or delayed, brought forward or accelerated, started or stopped to suit available resources and the present priorities within the overall corporate strategic plan.

Organizations that have managed projects quite formally for years may be quite new to the concept and ideas of program management. It may be too difficult to introduce program and project management simultaneously into organizations that have had no prior experience of a formal process for either. It may well be better to proceed in two steps, first project management and then program management. British Telecom, in the UK, would be a good example of a company that introduced them separately and sequentially.

Finally, according to Sergio Pellegrinelli, it is a way of organizing project-based change in organizations.[2]

Many practitioners of project management have expressed the view that project management is "change management" because all projects involve change. Proactively, they can be the vehicle for change, as described in Sergio Pellegrinelli's paper. Reactively, the user or operator of the deliverables or assets provided by the project manager will find that the way they have always done things will now be changed – hopefully for the better. Personally, I find this a bit of an over-simplification. Whilst I think the discipline of good project and program management has much to offer change management, it is a bit arrogant of the discipline to see itself as being all change management. The UK's Office of Government Commerce's publication "Managing Change" (originally published by CCTA as an IS Management Guide in 1999) helps to explain the difference in more detail.[3]

Roles, Responsibilities and the 1990s  Roles, Responsibilities and the 1990s

2. Program Management: organizing project-based change - Sergio Pellegrinelli – International Journal of Project Management Vol 15, No. 3, pp. 141-149, 1997
3. IS Management Guides – Managing Change – Best Practice, published by The Stationary Office in 1999, ISBN 1 90309 1 01 2, produced by the CCTA, now the OGC (Office of Government Commerce) in the UK
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