10 Things to Expect As A Program Manager
You’ve been working hard as a project manager for a number of years at your company. You have a great reputation for getting things done, playing well with others, and keeping things on track. There is an opening for a Program Manager position within your company and someone in the corner office realizes that you may be just the perfect candidate for the position.
Your manager approaches you and asks if you would be interested. “Sure”, you reply. “What’s involved and how would this be different from what I’m currently doing?” you ask. Your manager isn’t sure. All they know is that they will be losing a good project manager from their team.
First, a quick definition of Program Management. According to the PMI Project Management Salary Survey, Program Management is defined as someone who is:
“Responsible for the coordinated management of multiple related projects, and in many (most) cases, ongoing operations which are directed toward a common objective. Works with constituent Project Managers (who are responsible to the program manager for the execution of their project and its impact on the program) to monitor cost, schedule, and technical performance of component projects and operations, while working to ensure the ultimate success of the program. Generally responsible for determining and coordinating the sharing of resources among their constituent projects to the overall benefit of the program. Usually responsible for stakeholder management, particularly stakeholders external to the organization.”
What to Expect as You Transition from Project Manager to Program Manager
The above is a good, albeit lengthy, definition of a Program Manager job description. What does this mean in application? The following list is a working guide as to what you can expect as you transition into this new role:
1. More Responsibility
Instead of managing a handful of projects and focusing on their tracking, execution and implementation, you will be managing project managers that are managing those projects. In addition, you will also be responsible for more of the day-to-day operations of the program. This could range from delivery of services, to billing, to all points in between.
2. More Visibility
The Program Manager takes a more visible role within either their own company and/or the company where these programs are being managed. They will spend more time with the Director and VP level rather than then technical and implementation teams.
3. More Client Facing Time
You will have plenty of face-time with clients if you are managing a program on their behalf. This time will range from weekly program reviews, to strategy sessions, to stakeholder and executive program reviews.
4. More Influence
There is no doubt that Project Management is a leadership position within a company. One definition of leadership is “the ability to influence and inspire others to accomplish objectives by providing purpose, guidance, and direction”. Effective Project Managers are masters at being influential to get things done. Program Managers need to take that to a new level. Not only will they find that they need to have more influence, but that they will wield that much more influence because of their new position.
5. More Strategic Thinking
You will find yourself thinking more about the big picture and less about the details, this is where program management software will support your program manager skills. You will be less consumed by “how will we get it done” and more focused on “what needs to get done”. You will then leave the “how” up to the experts.
6. More Escalations
While you may be out of the weeds when it comes to the day-to-day project related activities, you will be called upon more for when things are going off track. These escalations could range from a project manager not having the resources they need to complete the project to a breakdown in an ongoing process that needs to be fixed. It becomes your responsibility to make sure the program is running smooth on all levels.
7. More Money
That’s the plan, anyway. Make sure you have this on your radar as part of your negotiations as you move into this new position. A rough estimate on the salary difference between a Senior Level Project Manager and a Program Manager salary is in the range of $13,000 – $15,000 more for a Program Manager position as defined in the job description above.
8. More Moving Pieces
You are now responsible for not only the projects that are attached to a program, but all aspects of the relationship where this program is being implemented. You may have viewed yourself as an orchestra conductor as a Project Manager. You can still view yourself as a conductor; just realize that your orchestra became much larger with more people and more instruments.
9. More Financial Responsibility
Program Managers are typically involved in more of the financial forecasting and budgeting responsibilities than a project manager who is responsible for monitoring and tracking budgets related directly to their projects.
10. More Satisfaction
OK, the jury may be out on this one. It’s very subjective as to how satisfied one person is with their job compared to someone else. However, if you feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a project on time and within budget, then there is even a greater level of satisfaction knowing that you have the entire machine (aka the Program) running smoothly.
What NOT to Expect as you Transition from Project Manager to Program Manager
The above list is a starting point for what you can expect as you transition from project manager to program manager. However, there are a couple of things you should not expect as well. First, if you were used to getting a “job well done” every now and then as a project manager, you will find these become less frequent. You are moving into a senior role within your company. The stakes are higher and you are expected to perform at an optimal level.
Also, you will most likely find yourself receiving less guidance and direction. Again, as you move up the corporate ladder you are expected to develop more of your own direction and motivation.
The transition from project manager to program manager is a gratifying one. You will find yourself in higher level conversations within not only your company but your client’s as well. This opens the door to seeing how different executives operate, which leadership styles work and which don’t. Exposing yourself to these various personalities will certainly augment how you operate as an effective Program Manager and make the transition from project manager to program manager a breeze.
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