‘Big’ Project or ‘Programme’?

‘Big’ Project or ‘Programme’?

Insights | 13 March 2017

Ever taken a step back and suddenly realised that you don’t just have several individual projects but actually integrated and inter-dependent projects requiring a programme?

Or is it just a ‘big’ project that you divide into sub-projects?  Can you just apply your standard project management method and templates to this ‘big’ project or do you need something more?  What really is the difference between a project and programme and when do you need programme management?  Let’s face it, programme management in itself requires significant resourcing: time, money and the right skills.  Like everything, we need to balance such costs against the benefits (and risks) of applying (or not) a programme management framework.

When is Programme Management really ‘Value-Add’?

Think transformational change.  If your ‘big’ project with ‘sub-projects’ is facing an environment fraught with complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity, low levels of predictability, risk and uncontrollable external factors you may need to look further than project management.

“A programme is a major undertaking for most organisations, meaning significant funding and substantial change for the organisations and individuals involved.”

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®), AXELOS

10 Questions to Ask in the ‘Big’ Project or ‘Programme’ Debate

When considering if you have a ‘big’ project or a programme, here are some questions to reflect upon:

  1. Are we embarking on a major business transformation that will impact many different areas and people?
  2. Are we focused on an overall outcome (new way of being) as opposed to, for example, a new product or system?
  3. Are we looking at pioneering new ways, maybe using unproven technology and methods and focussing on organisational change?
  4. Are we looking at radically changing or restructuring the business?
  5. Will this mean significant changes to societal values and behaviours?
  6. Are there stakeholders/key external influencers at all levels of the organisation?
  7. Is the focus on future direction and strategy for the business?
  8. Are timescales longer term, perhaps loosely defined, focussing on a new end state (as opposed to the steps to get there)?
  9. Are we developing new products and/or services incorporating innovation or a strategic opportunity offered by the environment?
  10. Are we translating political priorities into an initiative that will need to refine and deliver longer term changes?

Programme management provides a framework that integrates and reconciles competing demands for resources, providing a context and control framework for the projects of the programme.”

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®), AXELOS


PM-Partners group run Managing Successful Programmes Certification Workshops, for more information please click here or call us on +65 6818 5771

MSP® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved
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