Managing Projects with MSP – What's the Difference Between a Project and a Programme?

Managing Projects with MSP – What's the Difference Between a Project and a Programme?

September 27, 2017

Managing Projects with MSP – What's the Difference Between a Project and a Programme?

Project management and programme management are often mixed up as the same thing, however, it's very important to be able to distinguish the difference between a project and a programme. While the two of them may play a part together their management approach is completely different.


MSP project management defines a programme 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. Programmes have end goals and objectives but a programme tends to have greater levels of uncertainty because the steps required are vague and therefore programme leaders have more hurdles to overcome. In most organisations, the programme team tends to be bigger than the project team as they're responsibility is to coordinate, manage and supervise the work on a number of projects that are part of the programme.

Programmes tend to require a lot more input from customers and stakeholders to ensure that your programme is meeting their needs. This can be met by keeping your customers and stakeholders up to date with your steps, plans and developments, you can do this through regular face to face meeting throughout the programme, webinars, phone calls, business lunches and briefings.

The main difference between a programme and a project is their structural difference. To manage a successful programme, a qualification like MSP or P3O is well worth gaining to implement some tried and tested Programme Management training. This is designed to complement the PRINCE2 project management certification or something like PMP which is a globally recognised Project Management Qualification. 


The main differentiator is that a project has steps, measurable and goals, therefore project management is the application of knowledge, skills, techniques and tools that are all in-line with project requirements and therefore lead to project success. A project managers role is, therefore, deeper and more specific than that of a programme manager as they tend to take leadership of the team and the outcomes that the team is working on at that time. A project is representative of a single effort, which sees a group of people within the project team working together towards a common goal.

The main difference between programmes and projects is about the delivery. Projects are about delivering the right thing, whereas programmes focus more on delivering that thing right.  How do you deliver it right? By following the MSP Programme Management Method and ensuring everyone on your team is up to speed with the terminology and methodology.

In general, projects tend to be smaller than programmes and therefore programmes are of a larger scale and have more impact, which means they can have a huge impact upon an organisation. Fortunately with the right leadership and training, like MSP Training it means that both projects and programmes enhance an organisations success and productivity.