My company has a series of projects with dependencies between them (eg back end hardware refresh/virtualisation, new desktop build/roll-out, database upgrade and implementation of new functionality, new major release of existing applications, and implementation of a couple of new applications). All are significant enough to justify individual project managers, and we want to coordinate them all within a programme.

Question: Are the skills required to run a single large project the same as those required to manage a programme? If not, what are the differences, and what additional training is required?

  • 1
    PgMP from PMI may help you
    – yegor256
    Apr 4, 2011 at 17:09

4 Answers 4


I have done both roles and there is some difference. As a program manager you take on a temporary product manager role - your product is the program of projects.

As the Program manager, you usually have more discretion with decisions, you may have the ability to prioritize the time/budget of the individual projects. You may also deal with multiple sponsors. The program will have a sponsor - or a steering committee and each project will have a sponsor. This means your skills at facilitating decisions and working with the executive will need to be very strong.


A quick difference -

A Project Manager manages a project. A Program Manager manages Project Managers. Two very different skillsets.


It seems that the differences are primarily in the scale of decisions and the level of abstraction involved. Many of the techniques and perspectives required are very similar, especially when looking at the communication and interaction aspects of the role.

That said, the specific planning activities take on a very different feel as a result of the differences of abstraction. Also, i've seen that the potential damage caused by micromanagement is much higher, as there is value in maintaining the abstractions to manage and reduce the overall complexity of the system except at the interface points between projects.

Finally, with appreciation to @yegor256 for the link leading me to find it, page 7 of the PgMP guide provides some informative language supporting the perspective of the program manager as an evolution of the same skills as the project manager, rather than a different set of skills. The one new "skill" it suggests is the ability to understand and execute against a higher-level, more abstract strategy than would typically be expected of a project manager of a single project.


Sorry this is not a great answer because I have not done much traditional programme management but I wanted to share the link. The Project Management Podcast had a good interview about programme management a while back, I have looked through their archives and I think it is this one.


It also looks like this podcast may be relevant too http://www.project-management-podcast.com/index.php/episodes/381-episode-170-30-years-of-program-management

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.