What is Agile Programme Management?

There is often a requirement in an organisation of any type to transform the organisation from its current operational state to a new operational state. The reasons and the type of change may vary greatly – from the decommissioning of nuclear power stations to building a new business model or creating a new product to take to market. The characteristics are the same. A series of initiatives are carried out to move the organisation from the old state to the new state. The initiatives may be projects, business change activities or other activities. A programme is formed to manage this series of initiatives and to ensure that the new operational state is successfully reached. The length of the programme is likely to be years, and quite often a stepwise approach to implementation may be taken.

What is Agile Programme Management

Figure 1: The Agile Organization, reprinted with permission from the Agile Business Consortium

Programme management is concerned with ensuring the programme will successfully deliver its outcomes and expected benefits, realised though delivery of new or changed capabilities into the organisation. In many ways programmes are already Agile by nature, in creating fairly autonomous project teams to deliver outputs that contribute to the programme outcomes and in taking an incremental approach in delivery.

Agile Programme Management places more emphasis on incremental delivery and recognises that the programme (including potential incremental deliveries, projects and the change initiatives) will evolve over time and cannot be fully defined up front. Whilst a roadmap to the future can be created, only the relatively immediate future state can be defined in any detail.

Agile Programme Management also embraces an iterative approach, where the best solutions will emerge based on frequent review and feedback. This approach is applicable at all levels, from deep within projects to high-level programme design. There is also constant review back to the programme’s goals and to the business strategy. This ensures that changing circumstances are routinely incorporated into the programme even leading to its early closure should the new circumstances render the programme no longer required. An iterative approach is only possible when all stakeholders are actively involved and Agile Programme Management ensures that the right level of involvement from all parties is achieved.

There is also a culture of empowerment where teams at all levels understand and accept that they are free, and indeed expected to make decisions within the scope of what they have been asked to deliver but equally they are clear on the boundaries of their empowerment Agile thinking is also incorporated into all the programme’s initiatives. Management becomes facilitative rather than command and control.

So, in Agile Programme Management, the emphasis is on the Agile concepts of empowerment active stakeholder involvement and iterative development and incremental delivery of benefits whilst maintaining the control required to ensure that the programme successfully delivers the expected benefits.

Context of Agile Programme Management

This Agile Programme Management theory and principles assume that practitioners already has some experience of programme management. It does not attempt to redefine the fundamentals of programme management, and assumes some knowledge of a programme management method. It builds on that knowledge to show how those involved in programmes may need to think, act and react differently in an Agile environment. At the same time, it is self-contained in that it provides guidance for running Agile programmes, together with a complete programme lifecycle and product descriptions to support that lifecycle.

Programmes within the landscape of initiatives Figure 2 shows a potential structure of an organisation’s initiatives:

Agile Programme Management Overview

Figure 2: Portfolios, Programmes and Projects, reprinted with permission from the Agile Business Consortium

This can contain portfolios programmes and projects and other activities).

  1. The portfolio will itself consist of portfolios programmes and projects. The portfolio is created because the organisation has a reason to collect the subset of initiatives together, perhaps for control, budgeting area of business or other reason. There is no specific single vision that the subset is to fulfil.
  2. The programme is formed to achieve a specific vision, and is the focus of this guidance. A Programme is a temporary flexible structure created to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organisation’s strategic objectives by driving monitoring and coordinating a set of related projects and activities.”
  3. The project is formed to deliver specific outputs to the business. A Project is defined as “a temporary structure” created to deliver one or more outputs that contribute to one or more capabilities

Learn more about Agile Programme Management

The information in this article is a subset of the course content of the Agile Programme Management Foundation certification course.

The curriculum overview can be downloaded through this brochure: