If you’re looking for a program manager, then that means you’re looking for someone to manage a project portfolio. A program manager is just that, a person who is responsible for managing several projects at once, and they might even have to manage many programs.
As you can see, this is a unique job, one that shares many responsibilities with the project manager job description, but also differs in substantial ways. It’s important to know those differences, so when you are looking for the right candidate to fill the position you can narrow that search to only qualified individuals.
Difference Between Program and Project Managers
Obviously, a program manager is going to have a larger slate of duties, as they’re responsible for more than one project. Additionally, they are monitoring more macro, than micro, metrics.
For example, as noted, a program manager is overseeing multiple projects, or programs. They manage several teams simultaneously and might even be in charge of project managers. Most importantly, they need to deliver successful program outcomes.
Project managers, in contrast, are responsible for managing one project at a time. They deal with a more detailed monitoring of scope, schedule and resources, such as creating and leading a project team. The project manager is the one who is tasked with delivering a successful project, on time and within budget.
The two positions are different, and each is looking at the project or program in very different ways. Program managers are going to work more strategically, while project managers are going to have their focus on task management and other minutia of the project phases.
Education and Certification for Program Managers
The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers the Program Management Professional (PgMP) certification. It provides employers proof of a program manager’s advanced skills and experience in the field.
Getting certified shows that they have proven their ability to manage many projects and can work on complicated processes that cross various functions, organizations, regions and even cultures. Certification notes that they’re result-oriented and that those results align with the strategic goals of the organizations.
To qualify for PgMP, at least a secondary degree is required, which must be coupled with 6,000 hours of project management experience and 10,500 hours of program management experience. With a four-year degree, however, only 6,000 hours of project and program management experience is required.
There are also universities and colleges that offer courses in program management, which provide graduates with certification. These courses tend to be no longer than half-a-year in duration and teach how to define, measure and sustain a planned program, while covering topics like program governance, stakeholder engagement and strategies related to managing a program of projects.
Program Manager Responsibilities
If a program manager is like a project manager writ large, so are the responsibilities inherent with the job. The role is mostly operational, meaning it involves planning and governance for overseeing the program and its successful delivery.
While often project managers are expected to have knowledge of business skills to help align the project with the company’s overall strategy, this is less of a concern for program managers. Business management skills are stressed, but even without such experience a competitive candidate for the program management job must have experience managing large and complex projects. Below are some responsibilities a program manager should be familiar with after managing such projects.
- Strategy: Program managers work closely with the organization’s senior management on strategic goals and direction for the projects which they manage. They prioritize what is needed for the programs and allocate resources to meet those goals. They work to establish efficiencies and remove redundancies among the many projects they’re managing. They also review the skillsets of the multiple teams working the various projects and make sure that they’re distributed in such a fashion that enhances performance.
- Planning: Program managers work with project managers to define the plan and goals of individual projects. Objects, tasks, budgets and schedules are all agreed upon to reach the project’s goals. The program manager then reviews the planned schedule compared to the actual progress to make sure that milestones are being met. In addition, they monitor all the projects in the program they’re managing and report on their progress.
- Communications: One of the most important aspects of a program manager’s job is to keep a clear line of communications open between the project managers and the senior executive team of the organization. Program managers need to know the progress of the projects in their program and then report those findings to their superiors. They might do this themselves or contract specialists to facilitate the communications process.
- Finances: It is essential that a program manager has the ability to manage finances and administer budgets over many projects. The main goal of any business is to see a profit for its endeavors, and therefore, a program manager is tasked with ensuring a return on the company’s investment.
Sample Program Manager Job Description Template
As a program manager you will be responsible for formulating, organizing and monitoring a multitude of projects, both related and unrelated. You will determine strategies to achieve the multiple goals of the projects within the program. It will also be within your purview to coordinate across the various projects in the program you’re managing.
A qualified candidate will have experience as a program manager and provide strategic guidance across multiple projects while aligning this responsibility with the overall strategic goals of the organization. They will also have experience managing a large staff of different disciplines and be able to produce results quickly, so that all programs deliver on the stated goals of the organization.
- Manage and monitor programs
- Determine strategies to achieve objectives
- Organize all program activities
- Manage project managers and other staff
- Evaluate and report on all project staff
- Make and monitor schedules, budgets and other program activities
- Manage change, risk and resources
- Lead program staff, contractors and vendors
- Measure program progress for ROI
- Fix larger-level scope issues for various projects
- Deliver program reporting for executives
- Experience as a program manager
- Knowledge of program management methodologies
- Understand performance evaluation and change management
- Proficient in MS Office and program management software
- Proven leadership qualities
- Strong organizational skills
- Great communications skills
- Certification or diploma in program management
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