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Project Management vs. Program Management

By RB_ITProfessional ·
I have heard these two terms used loosely over the past several weeks within my company and in general conversation with other colleagues. What is the true difference between a Project Manager and a Program Manager. I welcome feedback from anyone working in either of these two capacities.


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Program = Parallel Projects

by V_man In reply to Project Management vs. Pr ...

In our case, we have a Program Manager for moving the corporation to a new facility. He has numerous Project Managers to accomplish the task. I'am the Network/Host Project Manager. We also have a Facilities Project Manager, Layout/Personnel Project Manager, Continuity Project Manager, and MIS Project Manager working on this program. Similiar to the description in this article: (Program management: Different from project management). Hope this helps.

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PM verses PM

by oellenas In reply to Program = Parallel Projec ...

Project mngr takes care of the tasks of a defined project whereas a Program Manager takes care of the Finance planning of the projects overall image.

Project Manager (27 yrs)

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by jsipila In reply to Project Management vs. Pr ...

In my experience, Program Management is the management of multiple projects. Take for example a consumer electronics company. One of their "programs" (or product sets) might consist of multiple "projects" (or components). So one person is in charge of the overall program - meaning the delivery of the entire set of components on time and within budget. There may be multiple Project Managers however, one for each component - and each with their own engineering team.

Another example comes from a health organization. They might have a "program" that deals with educating people all over the world about HIV/AIDS. One "project" might be the implementation of this program in Nigeria for example.

Make sense? Hope this helps...


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This is the classical definition

by amcol In reply to Depends...

Different organizations define it in their own way, but project management is the latitudinal view of a single project whereas program management is the longitudinal view of multiple projects.

What makes them fundamentally different is that a project, typically headed up by a project manager, is generally designed to achieve a particular outcome. As such the project manager is concerned with the granular tasks composing that project and meeting the expectations of scope, budget, and schedule. A program, on the other hand, is generally designed to have a direct connection to the overall corporate strategic plan. Composed of a series of similar projects, the goals of all projects within the program are typically consistent with one or more enterprise level strategic components.

Another difference is resource management. Project managers are concerned with over and/or under allocation of resources such that individual tasks can be achieved and resources can be fully utilized. Program managers are concerned with resource availability. If a particular resource is already scheduled for a task on project one, the manager of project two can't schedule that same resource at the same time for his/her project and the program manager is typically responsible for reconciling those conflicts.

MS/Project is the industry standard for project management, not because it's so good but mostly because of the ubiquity of Windows. It's not horrible but it is deeply flawed. It does have a companion product, MS/Project Server (or MS/Enterprise) which provides the program management perspective.

Program management is also sometimes called portfolio management. It's a sub-discipline of project management but does require specialized training and experience. The Project Management Institute ( is the de facto certification organization and the keeper of the PMBOK (Project Management Book Of Knowledge).

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MS Project

by taipan In reply to This is the classical def ...

Just to clarify, MS Project is only a subset of the required tools/processes to support the project (and program) management. It is a task/schedule (and sometimes cost tool) but it does not address Scope, Change Management, Risk Mgmt, etc as we would see defined in industry best practices like PMI (PMBOK).

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specific skills for program mgmt?

by f-2282617 In reply to This is the classical def ...

are there any specific skills needed for program management? i have been working as an amateur project manager and am looking at moving up the value chain just so that i make a little more money... though i think i have learnt some basics being a PM, are there specific skills that would help someone do justice to being a program manager?

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Skills for program Mgmt

by Robert_Devarie In reply to specific skills for progr ...

Most Program Managers have been either very successful Project Managers or have a great understanding of their organization business. I see potings here that makes the Prgram Mgr a glorified Project Manger when my experience has been that Program Management adn the PMO are the result of Management recognizing th eneed for alignment of resources used for th epurpose of developing a part of the business. This applies to Commercial and Government PMOs where they are not necessarily Technically savvy but do understand the Organization and can first contribute to the development of projects and then can also help find the Financial and other resources to bring the Projects to the start stage when the Project Manager is designated.

My suggestion is to develop your managerial abilities (including leadership, communications, Financial responsibility, etc.), network with other managers and never try to be a Project Manager and a Program Manager (like me now) at the same time because the Focus is somewhat different for each one.

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What is program management

by v.vandijk In reply to Project Management vs. Pr ...

A project manager is focussed on the project result of an indivudal project. It could be more as well. A program manager is focussed on the benefits of a project portfolio. So to what extend the projects results benefit the programs objectives. This requires a totally different kind of management.

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The differences

by taipan In reply to Project Management vs. Pr ...

Program Management and Project Management are related but distinctly different disciplines.

Project Mgmt: The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities in order to meet or exceed stakeholder needs and expectations.

Typically technical in nature with a defined beginning and end.

Program Mgmt: Program Management is the management of a related series of projects [a program] executed over a broad period of time, and which are designed to accomplish broad goals, to which the individual projects contribute.

Typically business and technical in nature and my be a an ongoing effort

More Info:
Program Management (PMBOK): The centralized coordinated management of a program to achieve the program?s strategic objectives and benfits.

Program Management Office (PMO): The centralized management of a particular program or programs such that corporate benefit is realized by the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques, and related high-level project management focus.

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Try New Grange for More Information

by chenig In reply to Project Management vs. Pr ...

There is a listserver called which is a bunch of journeymen PMs from around the globe in several industries. We just had a discussion, arising from the proposed Program Manager certification which PMI is developing. For the record, I am opposed to their doing this. PMI defines a program as a collection of projects or a combination of a project and an operational component. This inclusion of managing an operational component is what makes me opposed to the PMI proposed certification. I do not believe that PMI is professionally capable of certifying for operational management competence. They must agree because they avoid mentioning this in their newly proposed certification process. The comments in tend to assume that the skill set for managing programs is different than for managing projects. Programs require much more interaction w/ the strategic direction of the organisation. Program management is not the same as portfolio management as was suggested. A portfolio is a collection of projects in some state - they can be proposed, in progress or completed and may be totally unrelated or closely related.
In short, it is true that there is a lot of discussion about the project and programs (and portfolios). Unfortunately, the definition is blurred. My personal feeling is that a program manager is part of the operational structure of an organisation, in short, a line manager. This person may have project managers directly reporting to him/her, or may be the business sponsor of projects, depending on whether the organisation perceives project management as an IT function or an operations function. We in IT tend to think of projects as an IT function, but we're wrong. Projects arise from a business need and are always much greater in scope than their IT piece. I urge anyone interested to check out and read the program v. project management discussion.

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