Project and Program Management: Key Differences

Project and Program Management: Key Differences

Project and Program Management: Key Differences

What is the difference between project management and program management? In this blog, we discuss the differences between these two fields and how they often interact.

Management isn’t easy, particularly when it involves numerous teams, objectives, and disciplines. Orchestrating a group of professionals (or, for some, multiple teams across different time zones) requires focus, organizational skills and big-picture thinking. Project management and program management are two fields with similar (yet markedly different) objectives and scopes. An organization may have project managers, program managers, or a combination of the two, but what is the difference between these types of positions? In this blog, we discuss the differences between these two fields and how they often interact.

Project Management Focuses on Individual Products or Goals

Where other management fields take higher-level views of company goals and processes, project managers focus on a single service, product, or end goal. Project managers are typically tasked with ensuring deliverables are produced so to meet budget, timeline, and quality standards. These professionals’ day-to-day responsibilities often include managing project staff, tracking progress, and streamlining processes to meet deadlines.

Program Management Encompasses Multiple Related Projects

Program management involves overseeing multiple projects that are typically related to a common product or objective. Program managers prioritize benefits over deliverables, making tough decisions that serve the company instead of individual team goals. They are often responsible for guiding multiple project teams, and their responsibility as leaders is to ensure that all relevant project teams work together well. Project managers have somewhat different day-to-day challenges: they manage other managers instead of technical staff, and they have more responsibilities related to office politics and conflict resolution than most project managers.

How Project and Program Managers Interact: An Example

A concrete example of these types of professionals fitting into one corporate structure would be the launch of a new diet soda. In this example, a midsize soda company plans to release a new diet soda. This launch requires various components: manufacturing capabilities, a robust supply chain, marketing, packaging, and research and development. Each of these areas would have a project manager responsible for meeting a specific team goal (e.g., finalizing the diet soda formula, creating packaging, ensuring manufacturing capabilities, producing a set amount of diet soda, or planning an advertising campaign). Within these projects, project managers would prioritize the completion of their team’s main objective. From a higher-level perspective, the diet soda program’s program manager would be in charge of solving problems among the project teams, adjusting program strategy, and ensuring that the diet soda program benefits the soda company itself. Without experienced leaders at the helm in project and program management positions, executing large-scale operations would be impossible.

About Lewis-Price & Associates Inc.

Lewis-Price & Associates, Inc., is a fast-growing mission solutions company supporting federal agencies through premiere training, program management and IT services. Serving federal agencies across the government spectrum, from defense to civilian, we ensure the success of ongoing federal agency operations through effective curriculum development, professional coaching, program management, and administrative and technical services. Lewis-Price is committed to providing high quality, effective and on-time solutions to partners and customers through a team that values integrity, intention and excellence in everything we do. Learn about how we can bring our unique approach to success to your organization today at, and please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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