Scales showing project on one side and programme on the other
Programme ManagementProject management

How to tell the difference between project management and programme management

Psoda blog author avatar
23 September 2014

I recently had a very interesting discussion with a colleague about the difference between project and programme management.
We’ve both been in situations where organisations have struggled to differentiate between the two and have expected project managers to be programme managers and vice versa. This has led to confusion and, more often than not, programme and project failure.

What is project management?

PRINCE2 describes a project as: “a temporary organisation that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case”

What is programme management?

Managing Successful Programmes describes a programme as: “a temporary, flexible organisation structure created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to an organisation’s strategic objectives. A programme is likely to have a life that spans several years.”
From the descriptions above it is clear that programmes are very different from projects and need to be treated as such.

What is a project manager?

PRINCE2 describes a project manager as: “the person with the authority and responsibility to manage the project on a day to day basis to deliver the required products within the constraints agreed with the project board”

What is a programme manager?

Managing Successful Programmes describes a programme manager as: “the role responsible for the set-up, management and delivery of a programme. Typically allocated to an individual”

Project management vs. programme management

As the definitions above illustrate, project and programme management are very different beasts.
Project managers focus on delivering projects and have deep understanding of all aspects of their projects. They concentrate on ensuring their projects are delivered on time and within budget.
Programme managers on the other hand focus on ensuring that the programme objectives are met. They focus on key project metrics rather than having a deep understanding of what is going on in individual projects. They are also responsible for managing any politics around the programme.

But whether you are managing a project or programme, there is one thing that applies to both – you can use Psoda to help ensure your success! Click here to learn how our Programme & Project Management module can help you deliver your programmes and projects on time and on budget.

Rhona Aylward avatar
Written by Rhona Aylward
Rhona is Deputy Everything Officer at Psoda, where she does everything except code. After starting life as a microbiologist she moved into PMO leadership roles around the world before settling in New Zealand with her family.

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