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What is the difference between a program manager and a project manager?

By Zippia Team - Mar. 26, 2022

The difference between a program manager and a project manager is that program managers oversee a whole program, while project managers oversee projects within the program. While a project manager will ensure the success of individual projects, program managers oversee the strategy of all interrelated projects.

While there are similarities and overlaps between the two roles, the primary difference is in the scope of work. Program managers have far more oversight, while project managers offer a focused look at various projects.

A program manager oversees groups of projects that are linked through a common organizational goal. The program manager works to make sure the program is aligned with the organization's larger strategy. They might perform the following duties:

  • Work with project managers to plan project schedules, budgets, and goals

  • Collaborate with executive management to help achieve an organization's goals and come up with new strategies

  • Facilitate communication across different projects and cross-functional teams

Meanwhile, a project manager makes sure individual projects are carried out on time, within budget, and in alignment with goals. They collaborate with other team members, plan project costs, manage risks, and make sure that everything is on schedule. Specific tasks can include:

  • Plan and acquire project resources like budget, teams, and tools

  • Communicate with stakeholders (including program managers) and project team members to ensure alignment around goals

  • Maintain progress on projects by motivating team members, addressing pain points, and leading quality assurance.

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