~ By Kenneth Darter
A programme is a collection of projects that are producing separate deliverables or products that will be consolidated into one solution. While many programmes are designed from the beginning and managed as such, there are times when projects grow and ultimately transform into a programme, and must be managed in a much different manner than projects. It can be difficult to move from a project to a programme if an individual is acting as programme manager. A programme is much different than a project, and the manager must be able to make the leap from project to programme, if the projects are to be combined successfully into a programme.
One of the first steps when moving from a project (or projects) to a programme is to identify the leaders. The leaders needed for projects may be entirely different than the leaders needed for a programme. A project is the execution of a single system or idea, and it should be managed as such. A programme, on the other hand, is a large collection of projects that are all aimed at a single goal. Project managers should be narrowly focused on the work in which they are engaged, while a programme manager will need to have an expanded view of the entire programme. A project manager can transition to a programme manager, but this change needs to be identified and communicated so that the proper transition can be made.
A project's timeline is also much different than a programme's timeline. The programme timeline should take into account the dependencies between the different projects and how each project in the programme is going to meet the overall business benefits of the programme. The projects may or may not be concurrent, but there must be a high level of understanding regarding how everything fits together. The programme manager should understand if the business benefit can be met all at once when all the projects are complete, or if there are incremental improvements that can be realised as each project is completed. A programme timeline should show the entire picture of the entire programme lifecycle, not just the small pieces of each project.
If a project becomes large enough to be considered a programme, the programme manager will divide the work into several different projects, assigning resources and leadership to each project. After that effort is complete, the programme manager must then bring it all back together under the programme umbrella. The programme as a whole should take into account the individual projects and how each one fits into the larger picture of providing benefits to the organisation or client. While each project is focused on its specific scope and charter, the programme should be geared toward putting all the different pieces together by understanding and documenting when the projects are going to be completed, recognising the dependencies between the projects, and determining how resources and subject matter experts are distributed among the projects. The programme management plan must show how the overall business goals of the programme will be met by the executed projects under the programme.