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Within a newly formed Programme Support Office, a number of new starts have been asked to evaluate their roles but they are all former Project Support Officers and some are straying into Project Support under the guise of helping the Project Manager in order to help the Programme Manager in the long run. A number of other Project Managers have expressed the unfairness of "free" Project Support.

What are the primary differences in the roles of Project Support and Programme Support? Which control documents should be in maintained by the Programme Support Officer? What is the best use of their time?

Any and all advice appreciated in helping to craft the job description of the new role.

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    We keep getting questions about roles & titles. We need to consolidate those into a single Q&A that can be provided as reference. I thought we had one, but I cannot find it now. – Mark C. Wallace Sep 9 '14 at 12:26
  • This seems to get more at the difference between a project and a program, rather than titles and roles. – Mark Phillips Sep 10 '14 at 1:34
  • @MarkPhillips - I am not sure why you think that. I have been quite clear about the scope of the question; it is the primary difference between the job roles not Project and Programme. – Venture2099 Sep 10 '14 at 20:25
  • I may be mistaken, but the role seems to be "support officer" The difference between a Project Support Officer and Programme Support Officer could then be boiled down to the difference between a project and programme. Otherwise, it may fall into a debate on semantics or specific company nomenclature, making it less relevant for a broader audience. But definitely let me know if I missed the mark. – Mark Phillips Sep 11 '14 at 2:25
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If your organization is following PRINCE2 and/or MSP or the whole P3O/P3M3 standards, then for project management using PRINCE2 there is a formal but optional role/department for Project Support, which may help in providing administrative services or advice and guidance on the use of project management tools or configuration management.

However, for programme management using MSP, the Programme Office (and not just Programme Support) is more of a necessity since programmes are major undertakings, often affecting large numbers of people and organisations and generating substantial volume of information. Hence, it becomes The nerve centre and information hub of a programme. All information, communication, monitoring and control activities for the programme are coordinated through the Programme Office, and it also acts as the standards custodian for the programme and its delivery objectives.

However, it is very important to note that the Project Assurance and Programme Assurance roles are totally different from the above mentioned roles.

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When you say some new hires in the Program Support Office are straying into project support, that may depend on what exactly they are doing. Contact the manager who oversees the entire Program Support group and find out what their expectations are for these new hires. What one PM sees as unfair, “free” support, upper management may see these actions as necessary to get struggling or underperforming projects back on track.

Program Support should accountable for multiple projects to be working toward overall Program goals. The goals are often more closely tied to company mission statements than those of individual projects. If these new hires are truly getting too far down into the details of one project, you need to find out why. Perhaps some are helping to support PMs that they used to work for. In that case, you may have office politics in play. Consider rearranging what projects a Program Support person is accountable for. This may help avoid a conflict of interest.

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Even before you start defining the roles of the Project Support office and Program Support officer in my view one should check with the Program Manager / owner to understand the rational behind creating these roles and also what was it that the project support officer was not able to fulfill as per the organisation needs.

It might be that as project support officer the common program objectives were not being met.

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