Management

Does Your Business Need a Project Manager and Program Manager? Here’s what you need to know…

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Does Your Business Need a Project Manager and Program Manager? Here’s what you need to know…
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Does Your Business Need a Project Manager and Program Manager? Here’s what you need to know…

If you’ve ever been curious about the difference between a project manager and program manager, you’re not alone.

It’s a common question, and one that has a lot of business leaders scratching their heads.

After all, both roles sound pretty similar on paper. But in practice, they couldn’t be more different. Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between these two important roles.

Projects & Programs

Projects & Programs

Generally a program is a comprehensive and coordinated endeavor to achieve a specific objective, composed of multiple projects that work together to achieve the program goal.

So, a program is bigger in scope than a project.

A project, on the other hand, is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.

Projects are typically characterized by a defined beginning and end, and they produce deliverables within a specific timeframe and budget.

So while a program is made up of multiple projects, a project stands alone. And that’s where the key difference between these two roles comes into play.

Program Manager Defined

Program Manager: Defined

A program manager is responsible for the success of an entire program.

That means they’re in charge of multiple projects with the goal of achieving a larger business objective.

Program managers are often tasked with coordinating teams of people across different departments and disciplines, which can make this role very challenging.

But it also comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot of potential for career growth.

Program managers typically have a background in business or management, and they’re often very good at strategic thinking and problem solving.

If you’re interested in becoming a program manager, you’ll need to be able to think on your feet and be comfortable with change.

You’ll also need to be a strong leader with excellent communication skills.

Project Manager: Defined

A project manager is responsible for the success of a single project.

That means they’re in charge of a team of people working together to achieve a specific goal within a defined timeframe and budget.

Project managers typically have a background in engineering or business, and they’re often very good at organizing people and resources.

If you’re interested in becoming a project manager, you’ll need to be very detail-oriented and have strong problem-solving skills.

You’ll also need to be a good communicator and have the ability to stay calm under pressure.

Project Managers vs. Program Managers - Daily Responsibilities

Daily Responsibilities – Project Managers vs. Program Managers

The easiest way to understand the difference between project managers and program managers is to look at their day-to-day duties.

Broadly speaking, project managers are responsible for planning, executing, and monitoring individual projects within a larger program.

In contrast, program managers oversee multiple projects and ensure that they are aligned with the organization’s overall strategy.

To get a more granular understanding of the responsibilities of each role, let’s break them down further:

Project managers are responsible for…

  • planning, budgeting, and scheduling individual projects.
  • They also develop timelines and milestones, track progress against those milestones, and adjust plans as necessary to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget.
  • In addition, project managers are responsible for communicating with stakeholders, identifying risks and issues, and ensuring that projects remain on track from start to finish.

Program managers…

  • develop high-level plans for delivering multiple projects.
  • They also create roadmaps that detail how individual projects will contribute to the overall goals of the program.
  • Furthermore, program managers are responsible for allocating resources across multiple projects, tracking progress against program-level milestones, and ensuring that all projects remain aligned with the organization’s strategy.

Project Managers vs. Program Managers - Ideal Skills

Ideal Skills – Project Managers vs. Program Managers

Of course, all of those duties require a unique skillset.

The ideal skills for a Project Manager…

Project managers need to be detail-oriented and highly organized, with excellent time management skills.

They also need to be able to clearly communicate with team members, stakeholders, and clients alike. And they need to have a firm grasp on project management software like Gantt charts and resource allocation tools.

In other words, project managers need to be able to wear many hats and juggle many balls without dropping any of them.

The ideal skills for a Program Manager…

Program managers also need to be detail-oriented and highly organized, but they also need to be able to see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

In other words, they need to be able to zoom out from the day-to-day details of each individual project and see how all of the projects fit together as part of a larger whole.

They also need excellent people skills so that they can manage multiple teams across multiple projects at once without losing their cool (or their mind).

Project Managers vs. Program Managers - Salary Comparison

Comparing Salaries

Now we get to the nitty-gritty: cold, hard cash.

How much do project managers and program managers earn?

The short answer is that it depends on a variety of factors, including experience, education, industry, and location.

However, we can get a general idea of salaries by looking at key data.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for project managers in the United States is $94,000.

Remember median means that half of project managers earn more than this amount, and half earn less.

The top 10% of earners make more than $143,000 per year, while the bottom 10% make less than $56,000.

So what about program managers?

The BLS doesn’t have specific data on program manager salaries. However, they do have data on general and operations managers, which is a broad category that includes program managers.

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for general and operations managers in the United States is $100,000.

Again, this is just the median salary, which means that half of general and operations managers earn more than this amount, and half earn less.

The top 10% of earners make more than $173,000 per year, while the bottom 10% make less than $57,000.

As you can see, there is a lot of overlap between the salaries of project managers and program managers.

However, it’s important to note that program managers tend to earn slightly more than project managers, on average.

Of course, there are a lot of variables at play when it comes to salaries.

For instance, experience, education, and industry all play a role in how much project managers and program managers can expect to earn.

Location is also a factor. In general, project managers and program managers in large metropolitan areas tend to earn more than their counterparts in smaller cities or rural areas.

Does Your Business Need a Program Manager or Product Manager

Which One Does Your Business Need?

Now that we’ve looked at the key differences between project managers and program managers, it’s time to answer the question: which one does your business need?

The answer, of course, is that it depends.

If you have a single project that needs to be completed, then you probably just need a project manager.

On the other hand, if you have multiple projects that need to be completed simultaneously and they’re all part of a larger goal, then you probably need a program manager.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. For example, you might have multiple small projects that are all part of a larger goal, in which case you might need both a project manager and a program manager.

Or you might have a single large project that needs to be completed, in which case you might need a team of project managers.

In the end, it all comes down to what your specific needs are. And only you can know that.

Project Managers and Program Managers

Summarize

In a nutshell, the key difference between project managers and program managers is that project managers focus on a single project, while program managers focus on multiple projects.

Both roles are important for keeping corporate initiatives on track but they require different skillsets (and come with different price tags).

Both roles require excellent people skills, time management skills, and organizational skills. And both roles come with a healthy salary.

Project managers need to be able to see the big picture and understand how all of the pieces fit together. They also need to be able to zoom in on the details when necessary.

Program managers need to be able to juggle multiple projects at once and keep track of how each project is progressing. They also need to be able t o see how all of the projects fit together and how they contribute to the larger goal.

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