Because of the similarities between “project” management and “program” management, it's a common mistake to confuse the two types. However, program management is very different from project management. Program managers are responsible for fundamental business change and expenditures that have a very large bottom-line impact. Project managers usually only deal in day-to-day functions for short-term goals. So why do businesses need a program management office? The following reasons provide some insight.
Program management is typically done with a three-level hierarchy that is a bit more complex than project management. For example, program management’s bottom layer of the hierarchy includes project managers. These managers assist employees in the day-to-day functionality of the company and assist with project goals and tasks. Businesses that want employees to understand goals and processes require managers who know how to manage a working team. Including program management in the equation for the overall management system is key to having a solid work flow. Aside from the technical differences between program management and project management, the functions that program management serve for businesses overall is much more broad than that of project managers.
The first reason that program managers are indispensable to businesses is that these types of managers are often responsible for the financial aspects of a program, which can impact a company’s bottom-line far more than a single project. The administrative responsibilities and tasks that come along with financial management are time consuming and can overwhelm the typical project manager. Companies may see more efficient and long-term benefits financially for their programs if they hire a program manager. More importantly, having an employee with the one and only function of managing administrative, financial and resource allocation saves time and work for other employees and allows the manager to specialize and grow in one area of the company.
The second reason that program management is a key function in businesses is that the program management office oversees its own functions, saving time and resources for HR and other management departments. For example, program management generally oversees its own infrastructure, administration and resource allocation. Program management offices can support single or multiple company programs depending on the size and scale of those programs. Because programs tend to have a larger impact on businesses than projects, it's important to have experienced, trained individuals at the helm.
Though many professionals can confuse program management with project management, it is important to remember that many companies benefit over the long term from programs rather than projects. Having a designated office that works specifically in program management is key to developing greater momentum and impact with company programs, especially when those programs require a great deal of funding and company resources.
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