At a strategic level, corporate objectives are framed not in projects, but in programmes.
For example, in the Department of Health, the key corporate objectives include the Cancer Programme and the Coronary Heart Disease Programme. Activities such as these are simply too complex and too much of a continuity to be described or managed as projects.
The difference between a project and a programme is as follows.
A programme would be defined mainly in terms of "outcomes". In the DH Cancer Programme this could be "a fall in the rate of prostate cancer in the population from x% to y%".
However, the difficulty is that that such an "outcome" on its own is far to general an objective to generate progress and action. It needs to be defined more - in terms of outputs.
In order to generate that action, projects are defined within the programme, defined partly in terms of outcomes but mainly in terms of "outputs" - an improved screening approach is to be introduced, or an increase in particular resources. A change - an action.
Portfolio of Projects
Thus a programme can be seen both as a corporate objective within the corporate plan, and also as a collection or portfolio of projects, grouped together around a common outcome.
For most Public Sector organisations, the general framework by which programmes are established is as follows:
- The corporate plan is the commitment to the key stakeholders and contains the corporate objectives. These arrive from a synthesis of ideas from our key stakeholders and people in the organisation.
- Those corporate objectives are translated into programmes which describe broad aims and intentions to achieving those corporate objectives - a general framework for achieving them.
- Distinct, discrete projects are set up within those programmes, which deliver clear outputs putting some changes and events in place, and thus delivering the programme results.