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People often ask me what I do for a living, and once I’ve told them I provide planning & programme management services, I more often than not get the response “What’s that when it’s at home then?” or even “is that to do with planning permissions for building then?” So I thought I’d have a crack at describing what I do in a series of blogs, starting by breaking some terminology down into ‘layman’s’ terms, I’d love to hear your thoughts so please use the comments section at the bottom. Here goes…

What is a project?

A project is a one-off endeavour that has a set of objectives, or goals, that have to be met within time, cost and quality constraints. A project has a specific start and end, and tends to be distinct from on-going regular day-to-day work.

What is project management?

Project management is a disciplined methodology for planning and controlling a project so that it is completed on time, within budget and meets the goals that were defined at its inception. You plan a project before it starts, then control it once it is in progress.

What is programme management?

Programme management uses the same method as project management, but comprises simultaneously planning, controlling and monitoring a number of related projects, sometimes known as a portfolio of projects. Each project might have a Project Manager reporting to the Programme Manager, who is in charge of the whole portfolio.

Programme management can also involve sharing resources across multiple simultaneous projects. With project management software, you can share resources across related projects and you can set up access rights individually for each user to restrict the edits that they can perform. For example, the Programme Manager may have access rights enabling them to edit all projects, but Project Managers may have access rights enabling them to edit only their own projects.

What is Resource Management?

Resource management involves planning and monitoring all resources used in a project, or a portfolio of projects. The resources are the employees, equipment, machinery and materials needed to carry out activities in a project. Project management software can make a distinction between permanent resources (for example staff and equipment), and consumable resources, for example materials. Project management software can enable you to specify the skills required to complete an activity/task, then add individual resources to the task at a later stage. This is known as demand and scheduled resourcing.

When sharing resources across multiple projects, you need to know which resources will be needed most and organise them efficiently before assigning them to tasks. Once resources have been assigned to tasks, it is important to know if any are over-allocated, i.e. have been assigned more work than they can complete. With project management software, you can graph resource usage in histograms to see if there are any extreme fluctuations, or if resource usage is constant. You can also ‘level’ permanent resources automatically to keep their usage constant, and manually adjust the allocation of consumable resources to avoid periods of changeable usage.