What’s the Difference Between Project Manager and Program Manager?

 In Project Management

For a company to truly succeed there are many things that need to align: dedicated team members, a highly effective marketing team, well organized management and a strong culture. However, something that often gets overlooked is the importance of having clear role definitions and job descriptions in order to ensure the best resources are being assigned to the right tasks and projects.

For this reason, we decided to answer an important question we get very often from our customers: What’s the difference between project and program managers?

To truly understand the difference between these two important roles, we’ll start by learning the difference between a project and a program:

Projects are temporary, one-off undertakings. They are generally bound by cost, resource, budget, and time constraints. Projects have clear end dates and short-term goals that give way to tangible outcomes or deliverables.

Programs are composed of several underlying, interconnected projects. These projects complement and build off one another to achieve a larger, long-term business objective. A successful program drives strategic benefits and organizational growth, rather than a single, tangible deliverable.

So what’s the difference between project and program managers? Here are the main responsibilities for both.

In a nutshell, the key responsibilities for a Project Manager are:

  • Managing the project, including project scope, schedule and resources
  • Assembling and managing the project team and their performance
  • Delivering successful project outcomes (ensuring it is on time and under budget)

On the other hand, regular Program Manager responsibilities include:

  • Overseeing multiple projects
  • Managing multiple project teams (and sometimes project managers)
  • Delivering successful program outcomes.

As you can see, a program manager’s role is more high level and tends to include broader responsibilities, whereas project managers are more involved in specific projects by having more hands-on responsibilities. Either way, both roles are vital for companies to succeed, as they ensure that projects are on track, deadlines are being met and tasks are flowing smoothly and without complications for task owners.


What If I Don’t Have Both in my Team?

Often times, young or understaffed companies don’t have the luxury of having both a project and a program manager in their team. But that’s okay! Small and medium startups tend to rely on software tools and other resources that help with tasks, team management and workflows (click here to learn more about what workflows are).

As you may already know by our latest article, Gantt Charts, for instance, are a great way to stay organized through visual aids when there’s not enough availability for both project and program management roles. Gantt charts are used to show activities like tasks or events against time, making sure that everyone is on the same page and staying on top of their tasks.


Another great example of solutions for smaller companies are project management tools like Kimonus, a platform that integrates with other commonly used solutions in order to streamline work, automate processes and simplify collaboration. Contact us to learn more!

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