Actually, I answer to either. This is also true in my work. Am I a program manager or a project manager?

Quite often when I engage with a new client, they are unclear on the difference & sometimes the fact that both have clear responsibilities.

It is true, that frequently, they are performed by the same person, though more often that not I see the program managers responsibilities taking a back seat. So, what IS the difference?

Program Manager

The program manager is involved in more than one project with a much wider view. So for example, in a sales improvement program there may be multiple projects (replacing the CRM, sales training, branding, improvement of collateral).

Typically, the measurement of success includes soft outcomes (such as user adoption and satisfaction) & hard outcomes (sales improvement, budgets, adherence to program plan, ROI). The program manager works closely with those driving change, to understand the overall business need. This may result in adaption of project goals to deliver the best overall outcome.

The program manager drives the strategic view. When this role is performed by the project manager, the risk is that they get blinded by project objectives and loose sight of the strategic objectives.

Project Manager

The project manager manages one specific project, such as the implementation of a software solution (in this example, implementing a CRM solution), which contributes to the overall need (sales improvement).

Their measurements certainly overlap with the program managers, though they are primarily driven by project outcomes (go-live dates & budgets).

Cross project activities, such as supplier/vendor management may reside with the program manager, while items such project resource planning would reside with the project manager.

Where does 3rd Wave come in?

Often businesses do not put in place program management. Usually because they may only have a few projects running in parallel and feel that the project managers will coordinate sufficiently to drive the overall strategy.

This approach rarely delivers a successful outcome.

The 3rd Wave can help. We provide experienced program managers, with access to diverse business skills (technical, financial, product, domain).

With relatively few projects, this is unlikely to be a full-time role, making an engagement with the 3rd Wave a practical way to deliver a successful outcome.

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