Project manager and program manager are two common job titles throughout the business world, especially within the technology sector. While the two positions do share a few of the same responsibilities, there are quite a few significant differences.
These variations may also come into play when comparing duties across various industry sectors. Here is a quick comparison between the two roles so you are better informed if you are looking to employ one or the other at your company, or are perhaps looking for a change in your own career.
Program Managers have a Larger Scope of Responsibilities
The major difference between a project and program manager relates to the latter’s larger set of responsibilities. Program managers can have multiple projects under their area of responsibility, with a variety of project managers reporting to them. They need to be able to think strategically over longer timeframes compared to managers only tasked with successfully delivering an individual project.
An example of this delineation involves a program manager for an entire financial web application containing individual modules with their own distinct projects and managers. A good program manager knows how to delegate authority and not get bogged-down in the day-to-day issues typical of a project manager. This role is something many project managers aspire to move into after gaining enough experience managing in the trenches.
The Duties of a Project Manager
Project managers typically handle all that’s required to bring a specific initiative (technology-related or not) to a successful fruition – requirements, staffing, scheduling and more. As such, they deal with tasks at a more granular level than a program manager. They typically share responsibility for assembling a project team with the managers overseeing those specific employees.
While a program manager largely needs to think strategically, the project manager focuses more on the tactical. The time management of their project team is especially important, whether or not the project follows the Agile methodology which is now seeing wider use outside of the technology sector. Ultimately, completing projects on time and under budget is typically the prime goal of any project manager.
There may be some overlap between the two roles, especially when it comes to managing customer expectations, but remember that program managers hold a wider scope of responsibility.
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