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What's the difference, Project vs Program management?

They sound like the same thing. They're different words but.....IDK. It's confusing lol. Please explain.

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Rui’s Answer

Hello Natalie! To build on Mohit's explanation, consider Program Management as the guiding force behind multiple related projects. Each project is like a piece of a puzzle, all working together to achieve a significant goal or objective for the organization. Each project has its unique deliverables, but they all work towards a shared, broader outcome.

Let's illustrate this with an example:
Suppose you're planning a school event, like a concert. There's a lot to manage, from selecting the performers and setting up the stage to promoting the event, selling tickets, and coordinating with the venue.

Project Management is like handling a specific aspect of this event. For instance, managing ticket sales could be one project. You'd need to formulate a plan, set objectives, and carry out tasks related to ticket sales. This project would have a clear start and end date and focus on a single goal.

On the other hand, Program Management is like overseeing the entire concert, including all the various parts and projects. It's about managing everything from ticket sales, performer selection, stage setup, and more, all simultaneously. The person in charge of this is usually called a Program Manager. Their job is to coordinate and ensure that each project is moving forward smoothly, contributing to the concert's success - the shared goal.

So, in a nutshell, Project Management is like handling a single puzzle piece, while Program Management is like overseeing the entire puzzle, ensuring all the pieces fit together perfectly to achieve a shared goal.
Thank you comment icon ... This makes complete sense now! Your explanation is super helpful. Also; very clear. Thank you so much!!! Natalie
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Carl’s Answer

Hello Natalie, thanks for your insightful query. I work as a program and project manager at Verizon, a role that encompasses both facets. I handle individual projects aimed at bringing 5G technology to the market. Additionally, I oversee the entire program, which involves coordinating several projects that contribute to Verizon's 5G portfolio.

Projects are temporary tasks that, despite their short-term nature, contribute significantly to the company's overall business portfolio. On the other hand, programs are composed of numerous initiatives and projects, and they involve a long-term strategy. The work in this area is continuous, unlike projects, which theoretically have a completion date.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much!! I appreciate every one of you ! Natalie
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Mohit’s Answer

A project is a temporary effort aimed at producing a specific outcome or deliverable. On the other hand, a program is about managing and coordinating related projects and activities to bring value to the organization.

To put it simply, a project is about creating something and finishing it, while a program is about utilizing what's created to benefit the organization.

For a deeper understanding, it's always advisable to consult the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Thank you comment icon Hey, thank you! Natalie
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Karina’s Answer

Hi,
A program is nothing but a group of related projects. The difference between a project and operations is that while a project is temporary in nature, operations are ongoing.
Also useful to know could be that:
1. 1 product life cycle consists of many project life cycles.
2. A portfolio is a collection of projects, programs, sub-portfolios, operations managed as a group.
3. MS Excel is used in project planning while Microsoft Project is used in project scheduling.
Hope this helps!!!
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Bob’s Answer

Building on great comments suggested by others - I wanted to provide a couple of examples.

Project

Oil and gas company wants to extract oil from an offshore discovery. Based on data - the company believes the well(s) will produce for 30 years. Company decides to build a new rig to extract and process the oil. The rig build is a project. Project has a beginning, middle and end - requiring engineering, procurement and construction with clear scope, schedule and cost.

Fast forward 15 years - and it’s determined that the oil well is under producing and a solution is required. The business and related scientists and engineers design a program. Program will run for 12 months before reassessment.

Hope this helps
Thank you comment icon Yes, it does! Thank you with this Natalie
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Atul’s Answer

In the most basic terms, Program Management involves coordinating all involved parties to ensure smooth execution of a task. You act as a bridge between the team and higher authorities like Vice Presidents or Directors, especially when there are obstacles that need their attention. The ultimate aim is to prevent any group from causing delays in the project. Your role includes keeping track of the schedule and alerting superiors if there's a risk of missing project deadlines. Your main responsibility is to ensure all parties are working towards the final goal.

Project Management, on the other hand, is quite similar but comes with more accountability. As a project manager, you're in the driver's seat and the success of the project is directly linked to you. You might have to perform some of the tasks mentioned above and make high-level decisions that a Program Manager might not be authorized to make.
Thank you comment icon Thank you!! You and everyone else have been super great. Natalie
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Erika’s Answer

Hi!
Check out PMI - they have great information: https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/understanding-difference-programs-versus-projects-6896

Easy way to look at it is Project typically has a specific output, and Programs have multiple projects within them that are related.
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Tajas’s Answer

Hello,

Consider project management as a spotlight, focusing on a single, specific project. On the other hand, program management is like a floodlight, illuminating an entire group of related projects. For instance, in the context of a new housing development, a project manager would concentrate on the construction of one particular house. In contrast, a program manager would oversee the whole development process, managing all the houses being built.
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Andrew’s Answer

Project Management and Program Management definitions can be a little different from company to company but generally this is how I would break them down:

Project Management: Focuses on the planning and execution of a specific set of tasks or activities within a certain scope, taking in consideration timeline and budget. Projects lean more towards a clear start date and end date. Project Managers are responsible for planing and delivering the set of tasks that have been defined. They are also ensure that the project is delivered on time, on budget and with quality.

Program Management - Program management usually encompasses a group of related projects and initiatives that are coordinated together to achieve a larger objective or fulfill a specific strategy. Programs have a tendency to lean more towards the "ongoing" category, or longer time horizon, and include multiple interrelated projects. Program Managers oversee the success of multiple related projects. They do a lot of resource coordination and solve for inter-project dependancies and continue to make sure that the projects within the program maintain alignment with strategic objectives.
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Andrew’s Answer

Project Management and Program Management definitions can be a little different from company to company but generally this is how I would break them down:

Project Management: Focuses on the planning and execution of a specific set of tasks or activities within a certain scope, taking in consideration timeline and budget. Projects lean more towards a clear start date and end date. Project Managers are responsible for planing and delivering the set of tasks that have been defined. They are also ensure that the project is delivered with quality.

Program Management - Program management usually encompasses a group of related projects and initiatives that are coordinated together to achieve a larger objective or fulfill a specific strategy. It's not unusual for a program to have a longer time horizon. Program Managers oversee the success of multiple related projects. They do a lot of resource coordination and solve for inter-project dependancies and continue to make sure that the projects within the program maintain alignment with strategic objectives.
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Michelle’s Answer

Amazing answers already! One add on that I use to help explain:
Project Managers focus on outputs -- eg the actual deliverables of the project.
Program Managers focus on the outcomes -- eg what are the results that we are trying to achieve.
Program managers are all about long-term strategy, so the duration of their work is ongoing. They support larger company initiatives and more than likely will only change direction on a quarterly or annual basis. Project managers, on the other hand, are responsible for individual projects with fixed end dates
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Kirstin’s Answer

Project management over sees multiple concepts or projects that fall under a specific tier. Program management is overseeing and collaborating on one project.
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Paul’s Answer

Building on the previous comments that answer your question, I want to add a third layer, portfolio management, which is a collection of programs using program management, then each program is a collection of projects. Portfolio Management is a collection of Programs. The way I think about it is a hierarchal organizational chart. At the top is the portfolio then branches to 2 or more programs, and then each program branches to 2 or more projects. The projects' information flows up to their program and then the programs' information flows up to the portfolio. I hope that helps.
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