Definition of Program Manager
Definition: A program manager is a strategic project management professional whose job is to coordinate and oversee the different products and strategic initiatives within an organization.
What is a Program Manager?
The role of a program manager can include:
- Multi-project coordination and reconciliation of interdependencies
- Provide strategic guidance for the company’s project managers
- Facilitating communication between cross-functional teams within a program
What does a Program Manager do?
Before we can understand the role of a program manager, it is important to define “program”.
A program is a set of projects that are related to one another in an organizational context. A combination of programs and projects that support a strategic business initiative. This could be launching a product or a new sales process.
The job of the program manager is to provide a high-level overview of the entire program and to strategically guide the project managers in order to make sure they all work effectively towards the program’s objectives.
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Each project is then evaluated individually. A project manager coordinates all activities that fall under the program umbrella.
The Project Management Institute defines the role of a program manager as an essentially super project manager. A program manager can be thought of as a meta-project leader, strategically managing all interconnected projects in a program.
Here are the responsibilities of program managers as described by the Project Management Institute:
- Daily program management throughout the entire program lifecycle
- Define program governance
- Monitor the progress and plan the overall program
- Budget management
- Take corrective measures and manage risks
- Coordinate projects and interdependencies
- Manage and use resources in projects
- Communication between stakeholders can be managed
- Align the deliverables with the program’s end result
- Manage the main program documents
How can program managers help other members of the organization?
Project managers can get strategic guidance from program managers that is not possible to see if they are focusing on a single project.
However, program managers can also assist other departments within the organization.
1. They can help developers
Program managers are responsible for ensuring that the organization has a clear view. They keep track of the progress and requirements of all strategic initiatives. They can protect the development team against being overwhelmed with work and giving unreasonable deadlines.
2. They can be a great help to product managers
A program manager can also set realistic expectations for product managers throughout the development of their products. Program managers can help product managers understand the wider organizational context in which they have available development resources. A program manager can also alert a product manager if a team is completing a project sooner than expected, or if they hire more people, which could indicate the availability of new resources to accelerate their products’ development.
3. They can increase the communication and coordination of the entire cross-functional group.
Program managers are valuable communication hubs for cross-functional groups because of their strategic eyes on all major initiatives within the company.
During the product development process, Program managers will be able to determine the best time to bring together sales, marketing, and product teams in order to discuss how to manage the launch.
They will often be the first to know if a budget issue in the company could affect multiple departments that work on the same program. The Program Managers can get these teams together as quickly as possible in order to discuss the budget setback.
4. They can be used to help everyone involved in a program, as well as their teams, make better decisions.
Program managers must also be able to answer the strategic question “How?” Program managers must also consider the strategic questions of “How?” and “When?” To improve decision-making for all those involved in the interconnected projects.
This important distinction between product managers and program managers is not a surprise. It also shows how these roles can be combined to give programs strategic advantages.
Product managers should focus on why–Why target that user persona? Why not prioritize these user stories?–A program manager’s job is to think about the when and how. Program managers constantly evaluate how the company could make more development time. To avoid slowing down the progress of another project, it is necessary to complete one project.
Program managers can streamline the downstream work of all project participants and make it more efficient.
The Program Manager is a strategically important role
Project managers tend to focus on the details of a single project while product managers concentrate on the strategic direction of the products they represent. Program managers have a unique view that can give them a strategic perspective on an entire organization. They can simultaneously see the goals, risks, and available resources as well as budgetary limits.
Program managers have the ability to provide long-term value by utilizing their unique perspectives and insight to help guide programs in the most strategic way. This is how they can contribute to the company’s vision and direction. A program manager is a valuable asset to any organization that manages more than one project at a given time.