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Responsibilities of the Programme Manager 

 September 22, 2020

By  Dave Litten

Five typical responsibilities of the Programme Manager throughout the programme life cycle

Planning 

The programme manager is responsible for planning the programme. This will start at the beginning of the programme by identifying a list of contributing projects and then having the project managers produce a plan and schedule for their work.

The programme manager takes the outputs from the projects and, in conjunction with the project managers, identifies the relationships between the project and their interdependencies.  This will result in a programme plan that can be put into action.

Monitoring and controlling the plan

The programme manager is responsible for ensuring that the projects produce their outputs on time, on cost to the appropriate standard.  The programme manager will authorize the projects to proceed after each stage of work and will accept the completed products.

Any problems must be addressed and appropriate action taken.  The programme manager must manage the inter-dependencies between the projects.  This may include starting new projects, stopping projects and accelerating projects.

Managing communications

The programme manager must make sure that communications to the programme stakeholders is completed in a timely manner and that all information required is collated and issued.  This not only includes external stakeholders but those within the programme team and the projects themselves.

The communications will most likely be distilled from the information being reported from the projects so it is important that the programme manager specifies his/her requirement for information at the start of each project (and each project phase).

Managing risks and issues

Risks at project level may well have knock on effects at programme level because they cause problems for other projects.  As such it is important that the programme manager ensures that the project manager refers upwards all risks within the project that might affect the programme.

This enables the programme manager to assess these project risks along with any specifically programme related risks identified in the normal manner.

The risk management process in terms of assessment and action is largely the same at both levels, although the impacts may be greater at programme level.

Benefits management

A key responsibility of the programme manager is to ensure that benefits are realized as a result of the outputs from the projects being implemented within the business.

At the end of each phase of the programme the manager must make sure that the outputs are accepted by the business and a formal benefits realization plan is in place.

The programme manager must make sure that the benefits realization plan is developed before the outputs are delivered.

Explain the role of a project office, making four relevant points

In all but the smallest of projects there will be a significant amount of administration to be undertaken.  Without any support this falls to the Project Manager to complete and can easily result in one of two outcomes – the administration is left whilst the PM concentrates on day to day management, or the PM gets the admin done at the expense of the day to day management.  Alternatively, the PM works lots of overtime!

This is where the role of the basic project office comes in.  It can be administrative support, maybe 2 or 3 days a week and the person taking the role assists the PM with administration, completion of minutes of meetings, maintaining the schedule, receiving and analyzing reports.

In a small project this is often a part time function and can be difficult to justify in terms of headcount and the resources available.  For this reason many organisations have established a formal Project Support Office (PSO) function.

A PSO is a group of perhaps 5 or 6 staff that supports several projects between them.  As the peak demand for administration varies the staff are able to cross project boundaries and assist where required.

Typical responsibilities of a PSO include:

  • Operate a filing system for several projects
  • Operate a configuration management system
  • Be a center of expertise for:
    • Estimating techniques
    • Planning and control software
    • Risk analysis methods and software
  • Preparation of plans
  • Project reporting
  • Assurance of the process
  • Maintain logs for risks, issues and changes.

In some organisations the PSO functions are combined with a Programme Support Office becoming a Programme and Project Support Office (PPSO).  At the programme level the role is often expanded to cover the governance of the project and staff in these units often act as “deputy” managers.

Dave Litten


David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

The Projex Academy

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