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Program manager vs project manager: what makes them different?

NitanshLast Updated: December 16, 2022

Just like product management vs project management, the terms like program manager and program manager may be used interchangeably, but they are quite different. To understand the key differences between their scope of work, it is important to first know what programs and projects consist of.

Projects are a collection of tasks directed towards achieving a final goal or the project deliverable, and programs are a collection of projects that cover a broader scope of work. In other words, projects focus on service, whereas programs are targeted more toward organizational change.

Now let’s move on to program management vs project management and the part respective managers play. While managing a project, project managers are responsible to organize, plan, and execute tasks within a defined budget and timeline. They lead the associated team to make deliveries defined in the project’s scope of work, communicate the updates regularly to all the stakeholders and drive the project from initiation to a successful closure.

Program management, on the other hand, is a process of mapping multiple projects to align them with business objectives in order to improve the company’s performance. Program managers coordinate such strategies to drive agile transformations in an organization.

Program manager vs project manager: key differences

When comparing the roles of project and program managers, the following are the three key differences to understand.

1.      The scope of work

While project managers are responsible for leading and managing individual projects, program managers play a more strategic role in the system. Why? Because they not only coordinated with project managers and oversee the progress of different projects, but also facilitate cross-functional team collaboration depending upon the organization’s long-term goals.

2.      Managerial duties

Given the scope of work for a program manager is broader than that of project managers, the managerial duties of a program manager are also more. While project managers have respective teams to manage, program managers supervise project managers, thereby indirectly managing the whole team involved in every project that’s under their radar.

Clearly, program managers have more responsibilities to serve.

3.      Timeframe of their roles

Projects often have defined timelines. Meaning they have a fixed end. So, project managers switch to different projects during their tenure at any organization. However, that’s not the case with program managers. Programs usually don’t have fixed timeframes. So, a program manager can perhaps be in charge of a single program throughout their tenure, and hence, manage a group of projects that fall under its scope.

Key elements of a project vs program management that managers should focus on

Despite the differences between the roles of project and program managers, there are some key elements that both program and project managers should make their priority. Let’s have a look at them.

a.       Effective resource allocation

For any project to be successful, the availability of resources to complete the defined tasks is a must, even if there are changes in plans made due to unforeseen setbacks. The same applies to any program, the success of which depends on the projects.

Effective resource allocation means that project and program managers should thoroughly analyze the deviations the projects can encounter and keep a buffer to compensate for the same without exceeding the project budget.

b.      Real-time progress tracking

Real-time updates are imperative to the success of any project and program because in order to take immediate and appropriate actions to mitigate risks, the project and program managers should know about it in time.

Digital dashboards with project calendars let program and project managers get instant visibility of the project’s progress and enable them to plan ahead.

c.       Intra and inter-team communication and collaboration

Team communication is vital to ensure that all stakeholders in any project and program are on the same page. It helps the managers make informed decisions, thereby increasing the chances of its success.

However, relying on manual updates may not be as effective. So, there are software that you can leverage. Project and program can use these tools to set reminders for all team members to provide a timely update. Any deviation is also notified so any information is not missed. These tools can be used to view, organize, and prioritize different tasks involved in a project or program.

Flow is here to help!

As we discussed above, whether it is program or project management, the key to its success includes some common elements that yield better results with digital solutions. Flow is one such solution.

Flow is a powerful and modern digital platform to improve a team’s productivity. It provides real-time team communication and collaboration tools that let you stay ahead in the game. So, whether you are a project manager or a program manager, you can use it to keep track of each and every activity vital to individual and cross-project management.

To get started, get in touch today.

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