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What is Program Management?


What is Program Management

Program management is becoming increasingly important in today’s business landscape, where organizations face complex challenges that require a coordinated approach. Effective program management can help organizations achieve their strategic objectives, improve operational efficiency, and enhance their overall performance.

This blog will provide an in-depth introduction to program management, including its key concepts, benefits, challenges, and best practices. Let’s explore what is program management in depth.

What is Program Management?

Program management is a discipline that involves managing a group of related projects and activities to achieve a specific strategic objective or business goal. Unlike project management, which focuses on delivering a particular outcome within a defined timeframe, program management oversees multiple interdependent projects that collectively contribute to achieving a larger goal. 

Program management is essential in complex organizations where multiple projects are being run concurrently, enabling better coordination and alignment of resources, timelines, and objectives. Moreover, projects are prioritized according to their contribution to the program goals, and project managers work toward a shared vision.

Additionally, Program management provides a framework for managing the interdependencies between tasks, allocating resources effectively, managing risks, and ensuring that the program benefits are coordinated and integrated.

Who Works in Program Management?

Program management involves a team of professionals with diverse backgrounds and skills working together to manage a program. This team typically includes a program manager, project managers, subject matter experts, business analysts, technical leads, and other support staff. The program manager oversees the entire project, while project managers manage individual projects within the program. Subject matter experts contribute specialized knowledge related to the program’s goals and technical leads ensure the appropriate execution of technical aspects of the program. Business analysts gather and analyze program data and support staff assist with administrative tasks and project coordination.

What is a Program Manager?

A program manager is a professional responsible for overseeing the planning, execution, and monitoring of a set of related projects comprising a program. Moreover, they ensure the program’s goals are achieved within the specified timeframe, budget, and quality standards. Program managers are skilled in managing resources, identifying and mitigating risks, communicating with stakeholders, and making strategic decisions.

What are the Program Management Roles and Responsibilities

Program management roles and responsibilities refer to the tasks and duties that program managers are expected to perform to ensure the successful planning, execution, and delivery of programs within an organization. These roles and responsibilities can vary according to the organization and the nature of the program, but some of the common ones include the following:

  1. Defining the program scope, objectives, and success criteria.
  2. Developing a detailed program plan, including timelines, milestones, and resource allocation.
  3. Assigning tasks and responsibilities to project managers and team members.
  4. By monitoring program progress and performance against the plan and identifying and addressing risks and issues as they arise, program managers can ensure that programs stay on track and deliver desired results.
  5. Managing program finances and budgets, ensuring that spending aligns with the program’s goals and objectives.
  6. Ensuring effective communication and collaboration between all stakeholders, including project managers, team members, sponsors, and other program stakeholders.
  7. Making critical decisions and resolving conflicts that may arise during the program lifecycle.
  8. Ensuring program quality and compliance with relevant standards and regulations.
  9. Managing program changes and ensuring they are adequately documented and communicated to all stakeholders.
  10. Conducting program evaluations and lessons learned exercises to identify opportunities for improvement and best practices.

Effective program management requires technical, interpersonal, and leadership skills to manage complex programs successfully. To deliver the desired outcomes, program managers must balance competing time, cost, and quality demands while understanding the program’s objectives.

9 Crucial Skills a Program Manager Should Possess to Succeed in Their Role.

Following are the sections in which we will discuss nine essential skills that can enhance your program management capabilities, along with relevant examples. It’s worth noting that the models are sourced from the Program Management Professional (PgMP) Examination Specification & PMI Project Management Institute Website.

The Importance of Conceptual Thinking and Promoting the Vision

According to PMI, successful program managers require the crucial skill of selling the program, which may make some project and program managers uncomfortable. This is because not all stakeholders may recognize the importance of the program to the same extent as the program manager. Therefore, the program manager must consistently and effectively sell the program, develop a clear vision and mission statement, and articulate the program’s benefits to stakeholders. To achieve these objectives, program managers must be proficient in conceptual selling and influencing, which represent complementary aspects of the power and influence paradigm, as described by Cohen and Bradford (2005).

Advanced Analytical Abilities

The program manager must be able to efficiently gather and incorporate various forms of data, such as financial, statistical, and metric information, as programs generally produce a large volume of such data. They must be proficient in integrating knowledge, extracting essential requirements, and summarizing the program’s findings promptly and comprehensively. Although not requiring the analytical capabilities of individuals like Warren Buffet, program managers overseeing major initiatives must exhibit exceptional proficiency in this area. Nowadays, executives seek professionals who can make informed and evidence-based decisions rather than acting impulsively. As a well-known management expert, Peter Drucker, once stated, “A manager who acts impulsively rarely achieves their desired outcomes.”

Leadership and Teambuilding

Leadership and teambuilding skills are essential components that must be included in all lists of crucial skills. Despite the possibility of monotony in repeatedly hearing and reading about its significance, the fact remains that these competencies are now more critical than ever before. Clients frequently express the need for more competent program managers, and their programs are progressively complex. Furthermore, the virtual work environment necessitates experienced program managers who can effectively collaborate across diverse cultures. As a result, skills such as relationship-building, delegation, empowering team members, and collaborating with various organizational functions are increasingly vital to achieving overall success.

Communication Skill

In contemporary program management, communication is not only limited to delivering coherent presentations but is also a crucial skill that program managers must possess. As the world becomes more connected, program managers are expected to have communication skills similar to Ronald Reagan, the former President of the United States, popularly known as the “Great Communicator.” President Reagan was known for his remarkable ability to connect with people from different backgrounds and convey his message straightforwardly. Practical communication skills such as stakeholder communication, communicating constraints and priorities, and utilizing diverse communication methods are essential for program managers to succeed. Program managers must master these skills to enhance their effectiveness in managing programs.

Negotiating and Influencing

Influencing and negotiating are necessary skills for program managers to have. They are essential for achieving program goals and getting people to cooperate. Developing these skills requires time and practice, which involve tradeoffs and negotiating. Program managers operate in a political environment, and those who are politically savvy and know how to navigate politics are more likely to succeed. University courses throughout the United States widely use the book by Robert B. Cialdini as a recommended resource on the subject of influence.

Conflict Management

Conflicts are inevitable in program management, whether about personnel, program or project priorities, or stakeholder concerns. A program manager who faces battles head-on instead of avoiding them will accelerate decision-making and move the program forward. On the other hand, those who let conflicts fester will create a constant atmosphere of dissatisfaction and potentially alienate team members. The resolution of disputes requires more than force of will. Everyone must accomplish it in a way that makes them satisfied and committed to moving forward.

Stakeholder Management

Program managers often view stakeholders as tricky and uncooperative, similar to the Hatfield and McCoy family feud. However, successful program managers recognize that stakeholders are crucial to the program’s success and work to build positive relationships with them. This involves managing expectations, understanding stakeholder needs and desires, and collaborating effectively. Ultimately, program managers must possess the skills to handle stakeholders professionally and productively.

Planning and Resource Management

Program managers have a crucial responsibility of managing resources effectively. A clearly defined plan with specified tasks, deadlines, and costs is necessary for efficient resource allocation and assignment. In addition to strategic vision, a program manager must have tactical skills to manage risk, costs, and contingencies. They are also responsible for successfully assessing, matching, and managing resources to execute those plans. In addition, program managers must ensure that program documentation and artifacts are collected, recorded, and stored in a physical or electronic repository for future audit and learning purposes.

Knowledge of Program/Project Tools and Techniques

Last but not least, each program manager should have a “tool belt” or “kit bag” containing techniques and tools they have mastered and will utilize throughout the program life cycle for various purposes. The Program Management Professional (PgMP) Exam Specification mentions the following tools and methods:

  • Milestone planning
  • Process mapping
  • Planning and facilitating meetings
  • Change management
  • Statistical quality control
  • Root cause analysis
  • Scenario analysis
  • Brainstorming
  • Scheduling tools
  • Lessons learned (PMI, 2008)

Suppose someone without prior project management experience is tasked with managing a program. When that occurs, it is advised that they look for team members knowledgeable about and have experience with various tools and procedures. These tools and techniques are indispensable in problem-solving, gathering and analyzing information, and enhancing the productivity of the program team.

Is Certification Necessary to Become a Program Manager?

Usually, a program manager needs to have a certification in program management, i.e., PMI Program Management Certification. The PgMP Certification is a globally recognized certification demonstrating your competence and proficiency in program management. Earning this certification can help you advance your career in program management by providing you with the knowledge, skills, and credibility needed to lead and manage complex programs successfully. It can also enhance marketability and open new job opportunities with higher pay and greater responsibilities.

Additionally, the PgMP certification is based on industry-standard best practices, frameworks, and methodologies, such as the Program Management Standard from the PMI. This means that by earning this certification, you will have a deep understanding of these standards and be able to apply them effectively to your program management work.

Overall, while the PgMP certification is required to become a program manager, it can provide significant benefits and is highly recommended for those serious about advancing their careers in program management.

Benefits of Program Management

Program management offers a range of benefits to organizations that are looking to achieve complex strategic objectives. The following are the benefits of program management:

  1. Improved Coordination and Alignment: Program management enables better coordination and alignment of resources, timelines, and objectives. The program management software ensures project prioritization is based on their contribution towards the overall program goals and that project managers collaborate towards a shared vision.
  2. Enhanced Strategic Alignment: Program management ensures that projects are aligned with the organization’s overall strategic objectives. Program management software helps ensure that the organization’s critical tasks receive the required resources, enabling the achievement of long-term goals.
  3. Improved Operational Efficiency: Program management enables better utilization of resources, reducing duplication of effort and improving operational efficiency. It also allows organizations to identify and mitigate risks more effectively, improving overall project outcomes.
  4. Enhanced Communication and Collaboration: Program management facilitates communication and collaboration between project teams and stakeholders. It enables more practical information and knowledge sharing, leading to better decision-making and improved project outcomes.
  5. Improved Performance: Effective program management can improve organizational performance, including increased revenue, reduced costs, and improved customer satisfaction.

Program Management Software: What is it? How does it help?

Program management software assists program managers and their teams in planning, executing, and monitoring program activities. Authorized team members store and access program information centrally, enhancing communication and collaboration.

The software typically includes features such as project and task management, resource allocation, scheduling, risk management, reporting, and analytics. The Program Management Professional (PgMP) Exam Specification mentions the following tools and methods.

Program management software can help streamline program management processes, reduce errors and delays, and increase productivity. It can also provide real-time visibility into the program’s status, enabling program managers to make informed decisions and take timely action to keep the program on track.

Program managers can use program management software to manage multiple projects that make up a program more effectively.

The software typically supports the following key functions:

  1. Project portfolio management:  Software provides a portfolio view of program projects, enabling managers to monitor progress, resources, budgets, and risks.
  2. Resource management:  Program management software facilitates the efficient allocation of resources by program managers across multiple projects.
  3. Budget management:  Program managers can use the software to track and manage project budgets, ensuring they deliver projects within budget constraints.
  4. Risk management: Software tools help program managers mitigate risks and prevent issues from escalating, identifying, assessing, and managing project risks.
  5. Collaboration and communication: The software facilitates collaboration and communication among program team members, stakeholders, and sponsors, allowing for seamless information sharing and decision-making.
  6. Reporting and analytics: The software generates real-time reports and analytics that enable program managers to track project progress, identify trends, and make informed decisions.

Otherwise, Program management software helps program managers streamline work, improve efficiency and effectiveness, and achieve program objectives.

Why Online Program Management Software Is Beneficial

Online program management software has numerous advantages, as it helps to organize various projects within a program. Below are some of the benefits:

  • Streamline the project planning process
  • Group projects into program governance categories
  • Effectively allocate resources across the program
  • Generate program reports with ease
  • Make informed decisions with real-time data
  • Monitor program metrics through a management dashboard
  • Track and balance team workload from a single page


The role of program managers involves significant responsibility in supervising programs that comprise multiple projects. They must ensure smooth operations and effective resource allocation while aligning the goals and objectives of each project, program, and organization. Program management is a dynamic field that offers excellent career prospects in various industries. The ProThoughts Program Management Professional (PgMP) Certification can provide a strong foundation for aspiring program managers.

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