Whether you are looking into understanding the differences between a project manager and program manager because you want a career in one of the roles or are just curious, they are two different roles with different responsibilities. A project manager will be carrying out project management, whilst the program manager will be carrying out program management. The roles sound similar and sometimes the activities carried out overlap too, which is why it may sometimes lead to confusion or lack of understanding of the different roles.
To clear up any confusion, here is the difference between a project manager and a program manager.
What is the difference between a project and a program?
There are clear differences between a project and a program, here is what they both entail:
A project is a short term way of achieving certain goals to help eliminate issues and fix any problems. They are usually one-off and have several factors to consider. For example, a project will work with constraints such as budget, start and end date as well as resources available.
A program is much longer and can run continuously to achieve long term business objectives and goals. A program will have multiple projects running alongside each other to achieve the overall objective.
What is the role of a project manager?
The role of the project manager is self-explanatory. It is to manage projects. A project manager is responsible for the success or the failure of a project. Some of the typical project manager duties include:
- Defining the project so everyone is on the same page and fully understands the goals and objectives
- Creating schedules and ensuring the people working on the project stick to the deadlines and the expectations
- Managing the people working on the project. Being the motivator for the team and providing guidance and direction when needed
- Making sure that the project expenses are in line with the budget
- Continuously assessing any risks and putting measures into place to mitigate any problems
- Ensuring all the stakeholders involved are being kept up to date with the progress of the project
- Seeing through the project to its completion
What is the role of a program manager?
As explained previously, a program is when a number of projects are being completed to achieve a bigger overarching goal. The role of a program manager is to manage the multiple projects being run. Some of the day-to-day activities of a program manager will include the following:
- Planning and designing the program
- Following the progress of the program as well as the multiple teams working on different projects
- Ensuring good communication with all the key stakeholders
- Managing the budget set and making sure that all the expenses are in line with the initial budget
- Carrying out quality assurance to make sure that the expectations are being met
- Resolving any issues that may arise
- Managing the multiple teams working on different projects
- Carrying out risk assessments and having measures in place to deal with any risks/issues
The differences between a project manager and a program manager?
There are several differences between the two roles and here they are:
- A project manager will work on a single project at a time, whereas a program manager will be overseeing a program with multiple projects
- A project manager may move onto becoming a program manager once they have established their skillset in their role as a project manager
- A project manager will be looking to achieve short term goals, whereas a program manager will look at the long term objective
- A project manager is expected to be tactical, whereas a program manager is seen to be strategic
- The average salary of a program manager is higher (estimated at £62,000) than a project manager. The average salary of a project manager is estimated at £54,000. This is the average across various locations and industries in the UK
The similarities between a project manager and a program manager?
- They are both management roles
- They both require strong leadership skills
- The day-to-day activities and responsibilities are very similar.
Whether you are looking to kick start your career in project or program management, it’s good to get a clear perspective of what the two different roles look like.