Project Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

What is the difference between Project and Programme management?

I recently did my MSP certification, to gain better understanding of programme environments, compared to projects. One thing that came as a slight surprise to me was the difference in focus between projects and programmes. Projects are focused about providing fit for purpose products within a certain tolerances – time, cost, scope, quality, risk and benefits. Programmes are instead focused an realisation of benefits.

PRINCE2 does have a focus on benefits. However, it also acknowledges that in all likelihood the benefits from the project outputs are likely to be realised some time after the project is delivered and closed. In that scenario, how do you make sure that those benefits are indeed realised? This is where the programme comes into its elements. OGC explains programme as designed to bring in a transformational change in an organisation and providing a framework for achieving that. When you think about that, it does make sense. An organisation doesn’t go into a project becase it wants to do a project. The reason they do it is to achieve a change that meets their strategic objectives.

The  journey from inception of an idea to the actual realisation of benefits arising from that may not be a simple one. Ideas are inherently a vision from someone within the organisation that visualizes a future state of the organisation that is desirable. Ideas have to be tested for their merit, analysed against costs, implementation options considered. The end state can be a journey through fuzziness. This however, is not always the case. Sometimes the changes wanted are through known specifications, well understood and repeatable methods. In those circumstances, it is probably not worth running programmes. Projects are probably sufficient. However, fuzzier the journey is from vision to the future state, programmes are the way to go.

I thoroughly recommend the MSP approach to programme management.

3 responses to “What is the difference between Project and Programme management?

  1. Pingback: Acheiving project success with programme management | Dimension 6 New Zealand

  2. Alex Frentz January 28, 2012 at 8:34 am


    Thank you for the great articles about project management.

    I was writing to see if I could ask you a couple follow-up questions, from the point of view of a new PMP education company.


    Alex Frentz
    Program Administrator
    School of PE

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