Moving to a Programme Manager Position

“I want to move to a programme manager role from my project manager level experience. I’m not sure if I have the right kind of  experience? What about MSP?” 

The key answer  when being asked about moving into a new role is to first look at what is being asked.  Programme Managers have responsibility for realising the benefits from a number of projects. Strategic in nature, the combined projects deliver the programme objectives (many of which evolve over the duration of the programme).

To make the move any professional must therefore demonstrate a solid project management experience, managing simultaneous large strategically important projects.  Experience of the programme environment is crucial as the demands of project and programme are different. As a Programme Manager you will have responsibility for project managers and therefore providing leadership and gaining the respect of your peers is important. You will be often reporting at board level so being comfortable providing strategic information ensures senior management concentrate on the key issues and add value appropriately.

Experience suggests that moving organisation to make the step from project manager to programme manager is more difficult than gaining an internal promotion.  This is not to say that it cannot happen but the persuasive argument needs to be much stronger.  The advice would therefore be gaining as much programme level experience as possible within your current organisation.  If your current environment does not operate programmes, then perhaps a sideways switch to an organisation that does have programmes might be worth considering (still operating as a project manager at this stage)

In relation to MSP (Managing Successful Programmes) accreditation our advice would be the same for any qualification.  Employers do not generally employ people for their qualifications but rather their experience.  This is not to say that qualifications are not important.  They provide core skills which can be developed through experiences.  Employers, where they have asked for MSP, are  looking for formal training in Programme Management and the MSP is the most well known.

In conclusion moving from project to programme manager requires demonstration of strategic overview and an understanding of benefits realisation. This is best achieved internally and underpinned by programme level qualifications although experience is the key criteria.

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