Purpose of this Guide

Today’s organisations are subject to continual change. There are often many, dynamic and contradictory drivers for change, including innovations in technology, working practices (for example, outsourcing and partnerships), mergers, increased demands from regulation and, for the public sector, delivery of policy driven by changing political parties and/or ministers.

Organisations that have learned how to transform themselves through effective leadership and strategic control are more likely to survive and prosper. Programme management is increasingly being recognised as a key tool to enable organisations to deliver their strategy and manage that transformation.

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) represents proven good practice in programme management in successfully delivering transformational change drawn from the experiences of both public and private sector organisations

This guide provides:

• An adaptable route map for programme management, bringing together key principles, governance themes and a set of interrelated processes to facilitate the delivery of business transformation.
• Advice on how these programme management principles, themes and flow processes can be embedded, reviewed and applied, to gain measurable benefits from business change

The MSP framework is based on three core concepts. These are:

• MSP principles Derived from lessons learned in programmes that had both positive and negative results. They represent common factors that underpin the success of any programme of transformational change.
• MSP governance themes An organisation’s approach to programme management needs to be defined, measured and controlled. The governance themes allow organisations to put in place the right leadership, delivery team, robust organisation structures, controls and control information, giving the best chance of delivering the planned outcomes and realising the desired benefits.
• MSP transformational flow The flow provides a route through the lifecycle of a programme from its conception through to delivering the new capability, transitioning to the desired outcomes, realising the benefits and finally on to the close of the programme.

What is a Programme?

In MSP, a programme is defined as a temporary, flexible organisation created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organisation’s strategic objectives. A programme is likely to have a life that will span several years.

A project is also a temporary organisation, usually existing for a much shorter duration, which will deliver one or more outputs in accordance with an agreed business case.

Programmes deal with outcomes; projects deal with outputs. Programme management and project management are complementary approaches. During a programme lifecycle, projects are initiated, run and closed. Programmes provide an umbrella under which these projects can be coordinated.

What is Programme Management?

MSP defines programme management as the action of carrying out the coordinated organisation, direction and implementation of a dossier of projects and transformation activities to achieve outcomes and realise benefits of strategic importance to the business.

Programme management aligns three critical organisational elements:

• Corporate strategy
• Delivery mechanism for change
• Business-as-usual environment

It manages the natural tension that exists between these elements to deliver transformational change that meets the needs of the organisation and its stakeholders. It also manages the transition of the solutions developed and delivered by projects into the organisation’s operations, whilst maintaining performance and effectiveness. It does this by breaking things into manageable chunks (tranches) with review points for monitoring progress and assessing performance and benefits realisation to date.

Why Use Programme Management?

Where there is a major change there will be complexity and risk, many interdependencies to manage and conflicting priorities to resolve. Experience shows that organisations are likely to fail to deliver change successfully where:

• There is insufficient board-level support
• Leadership is weak
• There are unrealistic expectations of the organisational capacity and ability to change
• There is insufficient focus on benefits
• There is no real picture (blueprint) of the future capability
• There is a poorly defined or poorly communicated vision
• The organisation fails to change its culture
• There is insufficient engagement of stakeholders

Adopting a programme management approach such as MSP provides a structured framework that can help organisations avoid these pitfalls and achieve their goals.

The Programme Management Environment

The organisation’s corporate strategies, initiatives and policies are influenced and shaped by both the internal and external environment. Programmes are then defined, scoped and prioritised to implement and deliver the outcomes required.

A continual process of realignment is required to ensure that the programme remains linked to strategic objectives.

Types of Programme

A programme can be triggered in a number of ways:

• Vision-led programme
o Has come into existence to deliver a clearly defined vision that has been created and is sponsored by the top of the organisation
o Tends to be top down in approach, with cross-functional implications for the organisation’s operations
o Entrepreneurial programmes developing new products and services, that focus on innovation or strategic opportunity offered by the business environment
o In the public sector, this could be the translation of political priorities into a programme which will refine and deliver the desired changes

• Emergent programme
o Evolves from concurrent, individual projects that have grown within an organisation. There is now recognition that coordination of the projects is necessary to deliver the changes and the desired benefits
o Is transitory, as it becomes a planned programme when its vision, context and direction have been defined and established

• Compliance programme
o May also be referred to as ‘must do’ programme
o The organisation has no choice but to change as a result of an external event, such as legislative change
o Benefits may be expressed in terms of compliance, achievement and avoidance of negative implications rather than measurable improvements in performance.

Programme Impact

Programmes may be set up to deliver change in parts of an organisation, across the entire organisation, across more than one organisation, or in the environment in which the organisation operates.

Some programmes will be highly complex in nature, but have a reasonably well-defined expectation, i.e. there will be high levels of predictability in terms of outcome even though the journey may be costly and complex. On the other hand, change to societal behaviours over a long period, driven by policy and legislation, will have low levels of predictability due to the long timescales, and the cause and effects may not be fully anticipated as other societal trends develop. The programme impact matrix, together with the explanations below, can be used to decide whether an MSP approach is required or, if not, which programme management techniques could be useful in those circumstances.

The impacts can be:


Where the change being delivered is based on the making and delivering of new facilities, the programme will tend to be led by the specification of the outputs required – for example, a major capital construction programme.

Business transformation

Where the change is more focused on the transforming the way the business functions (for example, implementing a new service partnership or moving into a new market) the programme will tend to be vision-led with desired outcomes and associated benefits.

Political and societal change

Where the change is focused on improvements in society, the level of predictability will be reduced, as there will be too many uncontrollable external factors also at play. For example, a change that aims to improve the early education of pre-school-age children in order to increase their likelihood of making a more meaningful contribution to society when they leave full-time education will not only take time to design and introduce but the implications for the students and the economy will not necessarily be controllable or predictable in the long term.

When to use MSP

MSP is highly suitable for business transformation and political/societal change, being an approach designed to accommodate high levels of complexity, ambiguity and risk.

Some MSP Terminology

Throughout MSP, there are four key terms used that have a hierarchical relationship that it is important to understand from the start:

o Corporate strategy defines the organisation’s approach to achieving its corporate objectives in any given area of its business
o Corporate policy arises as a result of corporate strategy (e.g. the risk management policy described in M_o_R) and lays out the rules for all parts of the organisation to follow when implementing that particular aspect of management
o Programme governance strategies are developed during the course of implementing an MSP programme and describe why and how something will be undertaken within the programme
o Programme plans describe the explicit activities, including their timing and resourcing, that are required to implement the programme governance strategies.

Description of Documents

Benefit Profile

Used to define each benefit (and dis-benefit) and will provide a detailed understanding of what will be involved and how the benefit will be realised.

Benefits Management Strategy

Defines the approach to realising benefits and the framework within which benefits realisation will be achieved.

Benefits Map

Illustrates the sequential relationship between benefits.

Benefits Realisation Plan

Used to track realisation of benefits across the programme and set review controls.


Used to maintain focus on delivering the required transformation and business change.

Business Case

Used to validate the initiation of the programme and the ongoing viability of the programme.

Information Management Plan

Sets out the timetable and arrangements for implementing and managing the information management strategy.

Information Management Strategy

Describes the measures, systems and techniques that will be used to maintain and control programme information.

Issue Management Strategy

Used to describe the mechanisms and procedures for resolving issues.

Issue Register

Used to capture and actively manage programme issues.

Monitoring & Control Strategy

Defines how the programme will apply internal controls to itself.

Organisation Structure

Description of the management roles, responsibilities and reporting line in the programme.

Programme Brief

Used to assess whether the programme is viable and achievable.

Programme Communications Plan

Sets out the timetable and arrangements for implementing and managing the stakeholder engagement strategy.

Programme Definition Document

A document that is used to consolidate or summarise the information that was used to define the programme.

Programme Mandate

Used to describe the required outcomes from the programme, based on strategic or policy objectives.

Programme Plan

Used to control and track the progress and delivery of the programme and resulting outcomes.

Programme Preparation Plan

A plan that details how Defining a Programme will be undertaken.

Projects Dossier

Provides a list of projects required to deliver the blueprint, with high-level information and estimates.

Quality & Assurance Plan

Sets out the timetable and arrangements for carrying out the quality and assurance strategy.

Quality & Assurance Strategy

Used to define and establish the activities for managing quality across the programme.

Resource Management Plan

Arrangements for implementing the resource management strategy.

Resource Management Strategy

Used to identify how the programme will acquire and manage the resources required to achieve the business change.

Risk Management Strategy

Defines the programme approach to risk management

Risk Register

Used to capture and actively manage the risks to the programme.

Stakeholder Engagement Strategy

Used to define the framework that will enable effective stakeholder engagement and communication.

Stakeholder Profiles

Used to record stakeholder analysis information.

Vision Statement

Used to communicate the end goal of the programme; could be seen as providing an external ‘artist’s impression’ of the desired future state.

Programme Information Responsibilities

The following list explains the levels of responsibility associated with the creation and maintenance of the programme information.


The individual accountable who signs off acceptance of the content, outcomes defined and fitness for purpose


The individual who writes the document, or ensures that it is written, possibly consolidating information gathered from a number of sources


Groups or individuals who would be given the opportunity to contribute to and approve the contents, but without executive responsibility.

Adopting MSP

Drivers for change

o Political
o Change of chief executive officer
o Election results
o Changes to an industry regulator or watchdog
o Changes to a major supplier or customer (e.g. a merger or acquisition)
o Changes within a partner organisation

o Environment
o Global warming and increasing incidents of natural disasters
o Increased risk of pandemics
o Exposure to global terrorist threats, for example the World Trade Centre attack
o Focus on corporate governance stimulated by exposure of high-profile problems in global corporations

o Societal
o Increased demand for fair-trade products
o Awareness of local sustainability when buying food and other produce
o Attitudes to centralisation or movement offshore
o Attitudes to drugs and alcohol
o Demographic and migration changes

o Technological
o Breakthroughs in cancer treatment drugs in the health sector
o Increasing demands on hardware technology from software suppliers
o Growth of global communications mediums – the internet being the obvious example
o Development of new production techniques (e.g. the increasing use of plastics to replace traditional materials)

o Legislative
o Health and safety
o Environmental protection
o Freedom of information
o Data protection
o Sarbanes-Oxley in the US

o Economic
o Public sector focus on procurement, efficiency and value for money
o Global interest rate changes
o Taxation policies and incentives
o Emergence of new markets and suppliers (e.g. China)
o Merger or acquisition changing the market balance
o Entry of a major new player
o Availability of alternative product technologies
o Changes to supply of raw materials
o Impact of government procurement policy and value-for-money initiatives on smaller enterprises

Programme Organisation

Sponsoring Group

The sponsoring group represents those senior managers who are responsible for:

o The investment decision
o Defining the direction of the business
o Ensuring the ongoing overall alignment of the programme with the strategic direction of the organisation

The sponsoring group will appoint the SRO, who, as part of the sponsoring group, is likely to be a peer of the other members. The role of the sponsoring group may well be performed by an existing executive committee, or other board of the organisation.

Senior Responsible Owner

The SRO is accountable for the programme, ensuring that it meets its objectives and realises the expected benefits. The individual who fulfils this role should be able to lead the programme board with energy and drive and must be empowered to direct the programme and take decisions. They must have enough seniority and authority to provide leadership to the programme team and take on accountability for delivery.

Programme Board

Established by the SRO, the prime purpose of the programme board will be to drive the programme forward and deliver the outcomes and benefits. Members will provide resource and specific commitment to support the SRO, who is accountable for the successful delivery of the programme. The programme board reports to the SRO.

Programme Manager

The programme manager is responsible for leading and managing the setting-up of the programme through to delivery of the new capabilities, realisation of benefits and programme closure. The programme manager has primary responsibility for successful delivery of the new capabilities and establishing governance.

The programme manager will normally be appointed as part of forming the team for Defining a Programme, though it is important that someone assumes the role of programme manager when the programme brief and plans for programme definition (programme preparation plan) are being developed in Identifying a Programme.

Business Change Manager

The programme manager is responsible for delivering the capability, while the BCM is responsible for realising the resultant benefits by embedding that capability into business operations and facilitating business changes to exploit that capability. The individuals appointed to each role must be able to work in close partnership to ensure that the right capabilities are delivered and that they are put to best use.

If a programme is implementing change across different parts of an organisation, each should nominate a BCM. An integral part of the BCM role is an intimate knowledge of, and credibility in, the operational business.

Where there are multiple BCMs on a programme, they may all be members of the programme board; however, if there are too many, the board may become unwieldy.

Business Change Team

The BCMs cannot deliver change alone. A business change team can be formed to help each of the BCMs take their stakeholders in their operational areas through the change cycle.

The team’s focus is on helping the operational unit through transition as smoothly as possible.

Programme Office

Programmes are major undertakings, often affecting large numbers of people and organisations and generating a substantial volume of information. The nerve centre and information hub of a programme is a programme office. All information, communication, monitoring and control activities for the programme are coordinated through the programme office.

It is important to distinguish between the two distinct roles of the programme office. One is to provide support and guidance to the projects and initiatives. The other is to be the home for governance and control, including standards, approvals, financial monitoring, assurance, provision of health checks etc., and as such must be independent of the initiatives.

Additional Governance Roles

The following additional programme roles should be considered, though they may be part time or temporary during the different parts of the programme’s life.

o Risk manager Provides expertise and management support for risk and issue management
o Programme accountant Supports and ensures compliance to corporate accounting procedures, and also provides useful support in business case development.
o Design authority Provides expert advice or has responsibility for some corporate function, service, standard or strategy that will be affected, or a major programme outcome or change that needs to be controlled. This could be an IT or property infrastructure design, or a major service contract; it could also be a business process model or the programme blueprint or corporate ‘target operating model’. The design authority provides expertise and guidance on a specific area to ensure that there is appropriate alignment and control when changes are being planned and implemented.
o Benefits realisation manager Provides assurance and overview of the benefit profiles and realisation plan. A key element of this role is to ensure that there are no scope conflicts between benefit profiles from different areas. This should sit at the corporate level or in the portfolio office, to give visibility across the whole portfolio of change, to ensure achievability and check that there is no duplication across the portfolio.
o Procurement expertise Should be involved early to ensure compliance with corporate strategies and alliances and provide advice. Most programmes will involve some aspect of procurement.