Program Manager Vs Project Manager: Get The Real Difference

Program Manager Vs Project Manager: Get The Real Difference

Program manager Vs Project manager, here’s an intense debate about the difference between these two roles in the world of management.

Surely, the roles are at least similar if not the same?

Technically no, if we dive deep into the nuances of each role, then we will realise that they both have a stark difference.

Firstly, a project manager role is considered to be short term while a program manager role has underlying long term plans.

Each role has it’s own unique responsibilities that go hand in hand.

In this write up, we will discuss the difference between project manager and program manager, what are their roles and responsibilities, what makes project different from program, etc.

So, let’s jump right in…

Program Vs Project

Program Vs Project

There is a huge difference between program and project management. Both disciplines have different goals to meet different requirements set by the clients and the organisation.

There are often times when a project manager has to work with or under a program manager.

A harmony between the two is often desired. Before we dive into the difference, it’s important to understand the difference or uniqueness of each role.

What is a Project Manager?

Projects are short term requirements by the business. They are undertaken to achieve a specific short term goal and are backed by a set budget, resources, timelines etc. A project manager undertakes the responsibility of these projects and sees them through completion.

What is a Program Manager?

 Programme management undertakes an umbrella role with multiple short term projects to achieve a bigger goal. It is an ongoing process that is backed by a dedicated team who works strategically for the overall benefit of the organisation.

The role of a program manager is to handle this task and meet the long and short term goals led by the organisation.

Now that we understand the basic difference between a project manager and program manager, let’s make it more clear with an example.

If an IT company’s business objective is to increase sales, then they would take up projects from individual clients like a mobile app building project or a website development project.

Every project will be done for a short amount of time until delivery, and each project may be handled by a certain project manager.

Hence, when more such projects are delivered, the IT company can achieve its business objective of increasing sales.

This objective or programme is overlooked by programming managers.

If program managers are responsible for building a castle, then project managers will be the stepping stones that will help them.

This scenario may not necessarily be the case in every organisation and it can differ from one company to another.

Program Manager Vs Project Manager

Program Manager Vs Project Manager

The role and responsibilities of a program manager differ starkly from that of a project manager.

However, the overall objective of both is to add value to the operations of an organisation. More often than not these roles are confused due to the similarity in names.

In big organisations, there are clearly defined responsibilities between the two but in smaller organisations that can’t afford to hire both, the responsibilities may overlap or solely be combined and given to a single person.

This vagueness can create issues because each role has an important aspect and if the responsibilities aren’t carried out individually then it can affect the success of the organisation.

That’s why it’s important to differentiate between the two.

Let’s look at both the roles objectively –

Role of a Project Manager

    • Overlooks operation of individual projects
    • It is a tactical role that focuses on execution
    • Project managers are responsible for meeting timelines, reporting progress to the manager of programs, optimising resources etc.
    • They have to oversee the operations and align the delivery with expected goals
    • They are expected to complete the project within the guidelines to ensure the quality of work

The salary of a project manager may be subjected to the organisation and the work experience of an individual but if we were to put a range then it falls anywhere between Rs. 3,00,000 to Rs, 21,00,000 annually.

Role of a Program Manager

    • Achieve organisational object as part of the strategy
    • Utilizes resources and allocates them for productivity
    • Plans, coordinates and set guidelines for projects
    • Overlook individual projects and ensure that they are completed under the set guidelines
    • Resolve pressing issues
    • Coordinate with individual project managers to overlook progress
    • Align short term goals with long term ones
    • Communicate with stakeholders
    • Measure ROI and crucial KPIs

In India, the average salary of a program manager role can fall anywhere between Rs. 4,00,000 to Rs. 30,00,000 annually.

Please note that these are just an estimated figure and can vary based on multiple factors.

Although there are many differences between the roles, there is one similarity that they both share: managing resources.

An organisation is all about people and how you can utilize the skills of the people running it.

Effective team management is the catalyst in achieving both short and long term goals.

Team Effort is the Key

You need to understand the potential that a team can present when it comes to project management.

Handing human skills effectively requires thorough planning, timely communication and a routine to ensure that your project is on the right track.

Building the right team is step one towards that goal but the next step is to organise, plan and utilize those resources in the most optimum way possible.

For this, you can rely on team management tools for help, like at QuickScrum, we have tools which allow you to plan, assign and manage the nuances of your project virtually.

You can set goals and targets for individual project teams and handle multiple projects in a single dashboard, you can also assign the right resources for the right project for optimum results.

A tool like this can prove to be helpful for project and program managers alike.


 In brief, this is how we can compare program manager vs project manager with their roles and responsibilities in mind.

If you are thinking to build your career as a program or project manager then considering above mentioned skills or responsibilities will surely give you a success.

Get assistance to meet your short and long term goals.