What are the definitions, distinctions and relationship between the following roles?

  • Project lead
  • Project Coordinator
  • Project Manager
  • Program Manager
  • Portfolio Manager
  • Product Manager (optional)
  • Business-analyst (optional)
  • Team lead (optional)

(I'm aware that we've touched on this before - example, example, example, example, example; I'm hoping that we can fold all these answers into one and change it to community wiki as a reference. One answer to rule them all; one answer to enable all to find them, one answer to bring them all and in the stack exchange to bind them.)

Please add new roles to this question rather than creating new questions; we want to nurture the network effect here

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    Adding to the list of candidate "canonicals" – Deer Hunter Apr 27 '13 at 16:41
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    Ahem... the last para indicates the need for a Fantasy PM SE site, doesn't it? Not sure if this is going to be any different from many government projects... – Deer Hunter Apr 27 '13 at 16:47
  • This questions doesn't have an answer, as each of these roles are defined based on business needs. – Andrew Clear Apr 28 '13 at 18:17
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    Hi Mark, I've slightly changed the subject to ease the search for this question. Feel free to revert it in case you didn't like :-) – Tiago Cardoso Apr 29 '13 at 0:18

Caveat at the start - these functional titles may be interpreted differently in different organations

Project Coordinator responsible for the adminstration/bookkeeping of a project: preparing budget breakdowns, frequential reporting, supporting standard meetings and

Project Manager responsible for planning, managing and steering the day-to-day activities of the project

Program Manager responsible for coordinating the activities of a number of projects toward a common goal or within the compass of an organisatinal divison (ie all the projects running in the Finance division) or even within a single budget (ie all marketing-related projects)

Portfolio Manager responsible for the Governance of a portfolio of projects, ensuring that the whole remain within projected expenditure and aligned to the assigned goals.

Product Manager (optional) responsible for the ensuring the efficiency and integrity of all processes with respect to a specific product.

Business-analyst (optional) Responsible for ensuring that all business constraints and requirements with respect to a specific product or functional area (Payments, Server Farm X etc.) are fully understood and implemented in any change/project with respect to his/her are of responsiblity.


The PMI view is:

  • A Project Manager manages a project. They make sure they get done within constraints. He cares most about execution details in day-to-day work.
  • A Program Manager has a bunch of projects. they may be a Project Manager on one or some of those too.
  • A Portfolio Manager has a bunch of program. This is more of a strategic "where should our business be in the future" role. This is the least about execution details and most about long-term planning.


  • A Product Manager worries about what the product/service should do. He makes sure the right thing/service that customers want is done. Then the Project Manager manages execution to build it.

This question has no objective answer. Go ask your HR department if you don't know what your job's responsibilities are.

For example, consider this scenario:

Joe walks into his boss' office and summarily informs him "You told me my job description was xxxx but I read on Stack Exchange that product managers were responsible for yyyy. I therefore refuse to do responsibility zzzz any longer.

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    True - but not really responsive to the question. The terms exist, are used, and are frequently questioned on the site. Although the terms are flexible, I think there is value in providing a reference answer that can be used by students, job seekers and others. – Mark C. Wallace May 1 '13 at 12:01
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    Imagine the following scenario, "aclear walks into his boss' office and says 'My title is project coordinator, but I've been performing the duties of a program manager for the past year. I'd like to discuss how I can remain with the company and get the title and salary commensurate with my position.'" – Mark C. Wallace May 1 '13 at 12:02
  • If your job responsibility is to be a project coordinator, and you've been doing something else then you were not doing you job. – Andrew Clear May 1 '13 at 12:14
  • This is an old post, but it's worth reiterating for the benefit of the community: If a post isn't answerable with facts, references, or specific expertise, then we should vote to close the question, and then work to clarify whatever details may be missing to make the question answerable. As a site dedicated to building an objective resource of knowledge, closing and editing are our #1 tools for correcting these issues. Hope this helps. – jmort253 Sep 5 '14 at 6:18
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    Strikes me that the OP is asking for a canonical answer and Andrew is proposing that there can't be a canonical answer to this question. Seems a reasonable response and I'd vote to keep it. From my own research the definition of these roles can differ even among PM Bodies of Knowledge put out by different professional organizations. – Mark Phillips Sep 7 '14 at 12:43

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