Project Management vs. Program Management

Joshua Zable | 7/5/2024

Topics: Project Tools

programAre you running projects or a program?

On a recent call with a customer, the question came up: “Are you running projects or a program?” The customer paused and said, “What’s the difference?” As I once learned in grade school, if you have a question, it is highly likely that someone else is thinking the exact same thing, so ask away. By that logic, I figured if there’s even one other customer out there that can benefit from the explanation, it’s worth a blog! 

What's the difference between projects and a program?

Fundamentally, both project management and program management are crucial for achieving organizational goals. The main difference is that they operate at different levels and have different focuses. Project management is about executing specific projects efficiently and effectively, while program management is about coordinating multiple projects to achieve broader strategic objectives.  

Project Management

Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements .They can be formally kicked off with a project charter, or informally through a brainstorming session with brainstorming tools. A project is a temporary endeavor with a specific start and end date, undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. 

Projects typically have a project manager and are deemed successful if the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the specified quality standards. There are different project management methodologies built to help achieve success.  Some of the most popular ones are Lean, Six Sigma, Critical Path Method (CMP), Critical Chain Project Management, Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum and PRINCE2. 

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Program Management 

Program management is the coordinated management of multiple related projects, which are aligned with strategic organizational objectives. A program is a collection of projects that are managed together to achieve benefits and control not available from managing them individually. 

Programs are typically ongoing and may not have a defined end date, although they can have phases and milestones. Examples of programs are continuous improvement programs, operational excellence programs, change management programs, innovation programs and compliance programs.  

Programs require overseeing different project managers, coordinating resources across different projects and monitoring overall program performance.  

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OPTIMIZE EXECUTION WITH PREPARATION AND PROPER TOOLS

Despite their differences, the success of project management and program management hinges on preparation, planning, and a strong team. Rather than simply jumping into a project or kicking off a program, make sure you have a clear idea of the goals and the proper tools to ensure your success. 

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