What Is Program Management?
Many people ask, 'What is the difference between program management and project management? It's a valid question because programs and projects have a lot in common. The key difference is that project managers work on deadline - driven individual projects, while program managers are responsible for broader programs that encompass a wide range of individual projects.
5 MINUTE READ
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October 11, 2018

Many people ask, 'What is the difference between program management and project management? It's a valid question because programs and projects have a lot in common. The key difference is that project managers work on deadline - driven individual projects, while program managers are responsible for broader programs that encompass a wide range of individual projects.

Programs are ongoing, and successful programs require strong project teams and robust organisation. Today, we will dive into the key qualities of program management and discover tools, resources and strategies that make managing complex programs easier for today's busy business professional.

Programs are Long-Term in Nature

Projects are temporary. Once the goal is accomplished, the project is archived may be repeated. Program management has a larger scope and involves several related projects. Project managers manage the more intricate details and daily tasks of projects within the program, and bring any roadblocks, budget issues or timeline problems to the program manager so they can intervene and create a solution.

Project management teams can be removed or added to a program at any time. For example, a program manager might oversee new product launches. Different projects that might be included in the program could be developing product marketing materials, creating a launch event and writing talking points for internal staff. In this case, once the tasks are completed to and the launch event is over, the project is removed from the program.  

Responsibilities of a Program Manager

The program manager role requires a skilled professional that can wear many hats. They oversee complex projects and have to keep the big picture in the forefront without getting into the weeds. It's helpful for them to have strong project teams that don't require micromanaging.

Successful program management teams set timelines and schedules, budgets, supervise project managers and define the controls of the program. They manage resources, communicate status reports with stakeholders, clients and senior management and handle any documentation, policies and procedures within a program.

Program managers often work directly with business change managers. Business change managers supervise and measure the strategic business goals of any program.

While project managers and program managers handle the daily supervision of task completion and problem-solving, change management involves making sure the program provides successful delivery of business objectives.  

Program Manager Skills and Competencies

Strong program managers are skilled in project management, excellent communicators and are good at managing complex projects within one overall program. They should have a deep understanding and knowledge of the broad business objectives of a single program.

Successful program managers also are able to work with and communicate with a variety of team members and different work styles. They should also have great self-management skills, be skilled supervisors and demonstrate strong leadership. Finally, they should have proven decision-making, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills to successfully lead the program team.

The best program managers also realise their project teams are their biggest asset. They must energize, motivate, and engage their team members to do their best work. They also must be aware when they don't have the internal resources for any part of a program and find effective ways to weave in third-party providers while staying on budget.

Finally, program managers must be expert delegators and have solid time management skills. They can't have the attitude, "if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself." They have to trust and rely on their team.

There are a lot of moving, dynamic parts to a program, and making them move in tandem is no small feat. Develop a strong support team and include a program coordinator to develop the program and support projects throughout the life cycle.

Successful Program Managers Drive Change

A critical theme that program managers apply to their daily work is continually improving the process and driving change. As a leader, they are constantly looking for ways to make the overall program more efficient and effective without creating more work.

The best program managers constantly evaluate the performance of individual projects, develop new capabilities and measure program changes. They also dedicate time and resources to continuing education to develop and further their own skill sets, along with creating professional development opportunities for their team members.

Many program managers and project managers take advantage of organisations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) to attend workshops, participate in online communities with their peers and increase their knowledge of program management techniques and best practices.

Improve Program Management with Promise-Based Management and Software

A big part of program management is having control over the process and being able to monitor several projects at once on a broad level. Program managers need concise information from everyone on the team in one place, and they need a simple way to hold project managers and other staff accountable for reaching milestones and completing tasks.

Remote teams and the creation of smartphones and desktop applications have created a need that spurred software companies across the globe to develop tools that make business management functions easier.

Samewave is social performance management software that gives program managers and their teams one place to create and track project plans and collaborate about project progress while increasing individual accountability with Promise Based Management.

Our software features customised, automatic reporting, increases productivity and collaboration with integrated document sharing and storage, chat streams the ability to measure progress towards program goals in real time, no matter what device you are on.

If you're ready to streamline your program management process, improve communication and collaborate more effectively, implement Samewave in your organisation. Samewave is free, so download it today and get on your way to a more simple approach to program planning.

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