Section A Programme Management – What's in A Name?

Potato – patata, tomato – tamata, project manager – programme manager: just words and pronunciation or a real difference? Ask many practitioners what the difference is and they will answer: “The salary…”. So, to a practicing programme manager what is the difference and is it important? Never mind going into what is a programme manager or a portfolio manager.

From the experience of the principal author of this section1, managing both major projects and major programmes across several industries, the conclusion is that the academic differentiation can be useful. It articulates the fact there is a difference and that different skills and approaches are necessary. However, in reality, projects and programmes are intertwined at several levels, in all but the simplest of situations.

Consider the design and build of a highly complex navy warship. In itself it would seem an easy case to define, being a classic design, manufacture, assemble, commission, and handover project. You start with a concept and end up with a very definable end product – a warship. However, the ship is part of a broader programme of defence capability acquisition that will comprise aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates, logistics ships and all manner of other associated materiel. These together will form an overall programme, with each element playing a part in the whole. So what seems like a straightforward major project is actually part of a larger programme. ...

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