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To the uninitiated the syllable change between project and programme management might seem cosmetic, but understanding the difference could be pivotal in your organisation's cloud journey, explains Eric de Oude, Professional Services Programme Director at Rackspace.

The C-suite bought in and it's official: your organisation is migrating to the cloud. It's now the job of a programme manager to oversee those operations, keeping on track with tangible end goals in sight.

"There's no "hard and fast" rule for explaining the difference between a project and programme manager", says de Oude, "but the former tend to look after the everyday problems that emerge at the coalface and managing immediate stakeholders.

Programme managers tend to have a slightly longer-term view and they will also be able to coordinate between different project managers who may be having related problems but aren't immediately identifiable between those different workstreams," de Oude explains.

To listen to the other episodes from 'The Cloud Migration Masterclass', click here to head over to the Soundcloud channel.

Naturally the role varies between organisations as this often depends on scale. A capable project manager should be able to handle migrating single applications over to a SaaS platform, but when multiple workstreams become involved the complexities also tend to multiply, and it's here where a programme manager can help. Think of an orchestra's conductor, who must coordinate each of the disparate elements to form the cohesive whole.

Programme managers also have to strike a careful balance between planning and execution. De Oude says one of the most common mistakes is that customers "don't understand how much planning to do".

"Sometimes we have a customer who wants to do no planning at all," de Oude says, comparing that approach to migrating 300 applications on a case-by-case basis. "What happens is you spend a lot of time remediating or making changes to the environment to support your end goals.

"Trying to cobble together a disaster recovery or security strategy after you've migrated the application is actually a lot more difficult than having done enough planning upfront to understand what you need to do to prepare."

On the other hand, those who spend too much time planning might be tempted to squirrel themselves away, scrutinising each of those 300 applications - and by the time they're finished the entire landscape has changed.

"You've got to start somewhere - you've got to plan what the supporting infrastructure is that's required to start those first handful of applications," de Oude adds.

But plan properly and this will be reflected on the bottom line.

"Programme management helps in cost because we can help really define what the benefits are upfront, and recognise why you're undertaking the cloud journey," says de Oude. "We see costs spiralling occasionally, but that's because the end result hasn't really been quantified."

How about best practices? You'll want people with programme management certifications to execute in a "structured, industry-standard manner", and then build on that with a team that has experience in the technologies you're rolling out.

"What we see is having experience in actually having done these sorts of migrations before really helps," says Oude, "because you can start to identify the pitfalls and challenges that might occur as you're starting to migrate the next application into the cloud."

If you’d like to learn more about how cloud and programme management can facilitate your digital transformation journey, click to listen to ‘The Cloud Migration Masterclass’ above. This podcast series is brought to you by CIO in partnership with Rackspace.

Listen to the next podcast in the series - Continuously managing applications and workloads