4 minutes

In today’s post, we will be answering the question, “What is Program Management?” Before we proceed further, please note that the term “program management” is not to be confused with that of “project management”; although quite similar, there are, however, some notable differences.

Program management is a fairly new term to the world of project management and has been only around for a couple of years. It is used to refer to the simultaneous and seamless coordination and management of various related existent projects with the overall goal of improving an organization’s performance.

In other words, a firm could have a copy of ongoing projects being handled by various project managers. For example, the public relations department may have a project they are trying to execute in a community, the communications unit may be working on a different project while the engineering department may be working on developing a new product. These projects collectively make up a program and the art and science of managing these projects concurrently is what is referred to as program management.

Program Management – Job Description

In the introductory paragraphs, we outlined what program management means but what exactly do program managers do? Are the job descriptions for program managers applicable to project managers as well or are there some differentiating factors?

While both roles may possess some obvious similarities, they are also quite distinct. This leads us to the next question:

What does a Program Manager do?

1. The program manager is a change agent

A change agent is one who sees an organization through positive transformations. The change agent ensures that an organization is performing at its optimum best by paying attention to the overall effectiveness of the firm, works hand-in-hand with members of the organization to drive development and improve organizational processes.

In this case, the program manager, who MUST have a broad knowledge of the industry in which he/she operates, is responsible for piloting the organization towards more productive and profitable ventures by advocating and championing process and performance improvements.

2. The program manager is a strategist

To champion improvements in performance and processes, a program manager has to be a master strategist. Managing a project is hard enough already, coordinating several ongoing projects is no mean feat.

To be able to deliver effectively, a program manager has to be a top-notch strategist. He must be able to work with project managers, business managers, personnel managers to establish a clear path for the organization at all times.

To be able to achieve this, he must have a clear picture of where the organization is currently and what level it ought to be. The program manager is the one that implements policies and procedures and approves delivery standards.

He is the one who sees the bigger picture.

3. The program manager is responsible for budget and allocations

Not a dime is spent on a project without the consent of the program manager because it is he/she who ensures the organization maintains a good return on investment.

He is able to do this by forecasting program requirements, reviews and approves the budgets, sets financial milestones and notes down variances.

4. The program manager provides oversight function for the human resource department

To be able to drive the organizational change that is needed, a firm would require the right sort of personnel. For the personnel manager to deliver effectively the program manager should clearly communicate the expectations of the job to the personnel manager and because the program manager is responsible for the firm’s annual budget he/she also has a say in compensation packages for incoming personnel.

5. The program manager is a business developer

To boost sales and drive profits, the program manager has to be able to follow industry trends closely to be able to not only recognize but promptly take advantage of opportunities that arise in the industry in which the firm is operating.

6. The program manager is a governor

The program manager ensures that the 5-basic stages of project management are adequately handled. He is the chief administrator of the projects; in project management, matters are escalated to the program manager.

The program manager is the one the clients and stakeholders are going to want to speak with most times and as such, he/she must have excellent communication and negotiation skills to be able to provide control and oversight functions for the individual projects.

He makes certain that best practices and procedures are strictly adhered to.

Now you have some idea of what a program manager does, it’s time to take a look at what the program management plan outline is all about.

Program Management Plan Outline

The program management plan outline is a dynamic tool or more precisely, a document that aids the program manager in outlining, controlling and executing the program.

  • It lists the vision of the program, its scope, outcome, and deliverables.
  • It makes use of timelines to monitor the progress of various projects.
  • It states the objectives of the program, the baselines and highlights the KPIs
  • The program management outline is also the final reference point for program milestones, approved budgets and program schedules.

In summary

Program management is a long term affair and a good program manager is a leader who comes armed with a problem-solving mindset, adequate knowledge of performance monitoring and evaluation, is well acquainted with the principles of change management and an in-depth knowledge of the field in which he operates.