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Program Management vs. Project Management: 5 Critical Differences

Project management and program management are a difference of four letters, but there is a sizable difference between them. In an article for Simplicable, John Spacey explains the five major differences between the two, so that you can finally sleep easy at night:

  1. Programs are ongoing. Projects end.
  2. Programs are tied to the organization’s financial calendar.
  3. Program management is governance-intensive.
  4. Programs have greater scope of financial management.
  5. Program change management is an executive leadership capability.

The Nightmare Ends

On the face of it, project managers run projects, and program managers manage a suite of projects. Beyond that, things require explanation. Any given project certainly ties into organizational strategy, but at a finite level. Programs are engrained in strategic planning in the longer term and are generally involved in a process of continuous improvement. Program management also differs in that program managers are aiming to improve the bottom line of the business’s quarterly results, just as the rest of the business is. Likewise, program managers take responsibility for generating revenue and costs that make a substantial difference to financial results. Project managers are just concerned with getting their project done in the given time frame for the given budget.

About programs being governance-intensive, Spacey writes:

Programs are typically governed by a senior level board that provides direction, oversight, and control. Program managers must be able to influence at this level. They must also facilitate resolution of disagreements between executives.

The program manager must ensure that the governance board provides achievable objectives for the program and must deliver to these objectives. Projects may have a similar governance structure. However, they tend to be less governance-intensive.

Lastly, since programs are so entrenched in strategy, changing them becomes a much more layered and intensive task. It takes executive power to effectively realize a program change.

You can read the original article here: http://management.simplicable.com/management/new/program-management-vs-project-management

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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