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Warning: The role of the Programme Manager is becoming obsolete


peter stotenIn a world of intense corporate change, the role of the programme manager is often displaced between that of the Board and project managers.


Whilst the Board is best placed to agree strategy and take responsibility for priorities and implementation, it is a risk to underestimate the role and particular skills of the programme manager.   


The following key programme responsibilities are unlikely to be carried out effectively if undertaken by a the Board and more so where this is to be done by the ever task and delivery focused project managers;

  • Developing and ensuring the programme environment supports its component projects,
  • Ensuring the project outputs support the wider strategic vision and not just the individual projects,
  • Manage the resourcing of the dossier of projects,
  • Managing the programmes budget,
  • Appointing the key member of the project teams.


Unlike the Board, or the project managers, The programme manager will have the necessary skillsets (i.e. seniority, strong leadership, planning & project knowledge, and where necessary, be an innovator) to carry out these responsibilities effectively.


There is often a misconception that programme managers are just project managers who get the bigger and more strategically important projects than the lowly project manager, so in cost-conscious environments, wouldn’t it be simpler to just give all the projects to a number of senior project managers?   But if this were the case the priority and resourcing could end up based purely on the project managers who shouts loudest!


Equally, organizations need not be too hasty in adopting a programme manager to ensure delivery of a series of work streams.     In contrast to a programme these can be delivered as discreet projects whose outputs can be realized individually.   


The key is to understand whether the change constitutes running a programme, and therefore carrying out a simple health check may be part of the answer;

       i.         Where has the change come from: strategic or vision led, compliance led, or is reaction to other internal changes (projects and programmes)?

     ii.         Is there a significant level of ambiguity due to the nature of the change?

    iii.         Is the future state of the organization likely to change as a result?

    iv.         Is there likely to require change to processes, organization, technology & infrastructure, and information?


In reality the answer to this will vary dependent on companies’ individual appetite for delivering change, however the common feature is that where a programme is required, these should be delivered using the appropriate skillsets of a programme manager.