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Project Managers vs Program Managers

May 2, 2019

LAAAADDDDIEESSS and GENTLEMEN. In this corner armed with a gantt chart and a calendar, the PROJECT MANAGER! And in this corner, armed with client requests and a budget projection the PROGRAM MANAGER!


Okay, it’s not quite that bad. But, there’s a reason the project manager and the stakeholder, or sponsor or program manager shouldn’t be the same person. They have different and competing roles.

Program manager isn’t part of the typical PMI project plan. A program manager mostly fills the role of stake holder or sponsor. The program manager needs to understand the needs of the customer. She needs to understand how the solution will fit into the existing infrastructure.

The project manager doesn’t actually need to understand the solution before the project starts. He needs to be able to take the requirements, coordinate with subject matter experts, look at the schedule and build a task list.

Why would I suggest that the PM and the PM (project and program) are at odds? The project manager needs to keep the project on track. She is responsible for getting the project done on time.

The program manager is responsible for the feature lists. He needs to look at the schedule, as well, and the program manager may be the one to make the tough calls about what needs to be cut from the feature list.

Typically the program manager is trying to push in “one more feature.” The project manager is trying to push out features to keep the schedule straight.

And that’s assuming the budget is known and stable.

We have a new collaborative project starting with our client. I’m the program manager on my side. I work with a counterpart on the client side. The client assigned a project manager to run the project on their side. I’m negotiating with our project manager team.

I tried to explain why we should assign our own project manager. The project manager team looked at the request

But, it’s a pretty small project. Why can’t you be the project manager?

Well, I’m already standing in a corner. . .ready to rumble.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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