What is Program Management? From two Program Managers.

Transcribed from a Coffee Project video, found HERE! (Or scroll to the bottom of this page)

Lightly edited by Hannah Cui.


Kamil Mroz: Yeah, well the obvious difference is when you look at projects you're really managing one project, you know, from start to finish. But when you are managing programs, it's typically a combination of projects that are trying to achieve a strategic outcome or a strategic direction for the organization. So the difference is- and there's definitely a difference in the focus that each role has to have on elements like the business case, like benefits realization, like the more strategic connection to to the company.

Because at a project level, the project is a temporary organization. So, you know, as a project manager, you jump in or you start it off, you kick it off and then you close it down. But as a program manager, even when one individual project closes and the outputs are handed over, you still need to have an oversight on whether or not the benefits that were initially sought out in the business case are are actually materializing. And so you have, I would say, maybe a more vested, a longer term interest in sticking around longer and having that rather strategic overview.

And then also when you look at the more technical topics like risk management, like budget management, that there is a slightly different focus to it maybe at the program level- a higher level perspective, whereas in the projects, I think you kind of have to look at more project related risks to the outputs that you're trying to arrive at. So there's a more granular perspective on the more technical elements.

Yeah, what else can I say? There are definitely building blocks like starting off in project management- I think you mastering that fundamental layer of project management is a great launch pad to get into program management, and program management is then a great launch pad to get into portfolio management and more strategic elements of the organization. So they definitely build on top of each other.

I'm really curious to hear what you have to say James, being an aficionado of program management.


James Bawtree: Well I certainly agree Kamil, and those building blocks and the sort of traditional path from sometimes coordinator- actually I see a lot of and in fact if I go back one further- an Executive Assistant- so somebody that's outside of the project space. And they learn really good project management skills in being an executive, or a personal assistant to an executive, and then they come in as a coordinator in a project environment, work up to a project manager/program manager. Often I see and I recommend people also spend time as a PMO- so going in and supporting multiple initiatives helps them to better