Program management and project management are two different areas which have similarities and differences at times. Most of the time wrongly used and understood. To distinguish project management vs program management, it is worthy to move on step by step to make a clear comparison. The logical way is to sort out the key words are project and program. They are defined as follows:

What is Project?

Project is defined as interrelated tasks that is planned to be accomplished within a specific period of time, cost considering other limitations.

What is program?

Program is the set of allied projects, coordinated in such a way to achieve a said objective which is not attainable individually or by a single project.

Here the definitions of both the key words signify that program is a broader term which contains number of projects in itself so that a specific organizational objective is to be gained. Whereas,  project is a component of program or a single unit. For example: Construction of infrastructure is a project while construction of school, college, hospital,  infrastructure all inclusively make public sector development program of a budgetary year.


project management vs program management

Project management vs Program management; Comparison Chart

The following chart makes a comparison between project and program:



DurationIt has short term and accomplished on specific date.The duration of program is longer than project and dependent on its entire component and it is ongoing.
TimelineDependent on deadline of project.It is dependent on financial calendar of the business and quarterly results are delivered.
ScopeScope of project is limited to a single team or organization.While Program has wider & broader scope which may range multiple organizations
Units of functionIt has single unit of functionWhile program has multiple unit of function.
ProductionIt ends with an output.Whereas, it has an outcome.
Success yard scaleThe success of project is measured on the basis of its timeliness, product quality and quantitative benefits.Program is considered successful if it provides maximum satisfaction.
FinancesProjects have specific budget that is allocated to it.However, the budget of program is a little bit complicated and has sensitive budget planning procedure.
Controlling & decision makingProjects can have managers of different levels for the management purpose. The control & governance is informal in nature.Whereas, Programs have senior level management to give direction, control & influence the program. They have stronger authority in decision making.


The above mentioned differences are cursory and most vibrant distinctions which draws line between both. Viewing the technical differences from management point of view is necessary. These would be on the basis of Initiation, management planning execution & closing.

Differences on the basis of Initiation:



1. Identification of Project Sponsor.1.Validation of the Program Business case.
2. Allocation of Budget.2. Reviewing sources of fund.
3. Identification of major stakeholders.3. Identification of the program sponsors.
4. Assigning the project to a project manager.4. Assigning a program manager.
5. Identification of the program management structure.


Differences on the basis of Planning:

Planning is milestone of every formal & informal activity. Project & program both have schedule, cost, and resources to be applied for accomplishment of objective.

Planning of Project Tasks

Planning of Program Tasks

1. Development of project management plan.1. Development of the program management plan.
2. Defining project scope.2. Defining the scope program.
3. Defining the schedule of project.3. Defining the program schedule.
4. Defining the resources of project.4. Defining the details of program budget.
5. Defining the details of budget. 

 Differences on the basis of Execution:

A successful execution takes place when the project or program’s detail is made. The project or program details articulate the schedule, resources, scope, risks and limitations. In execution phase following differences are vibrant.

Project Execution

Program Execution

1. Managing the project schedule.1. Managing the program milestone.
2. Manage the project budget.2. Manage the program budget.
3. Managing project’s issues & risks.3. Managing Program’s issues & risks.
Managing project communication.Managing program communication.
4. Managing scope & changes of project.4. Managing scope & changes of program accordingly.
5. Managing the project team members.5. Managing the human resources.
6. Application of stakeholders management
7. Application of program control & governance.


For the execution of program effective and efficient integration of each project component is must. They must be coordinated in a way to manage all the risks, issues & changes to get them done within project schedule which automatically facilitate the schedule and timeline of program.

At the same time the program manager is needed to know about the issues and risks which directly affect the program milestone. He doesn’t need to focus the risks attached to every single project, because it would be laborious and time consuming for him. However, all the issues should be in his knowledge for the review and categorization.

Again it is here highlighted that many activities are similar to be performed by name like communication, schedule and budget, yet the scope of these activities vary from project to program.

Differences on the basis of closure:



1.Conducting closing of project & evaluate the achievements & failures.1. Conducting closing of program & evaluate success of program by meeting with project managers & project teams.
2. Sorting out the transition solution to operational team.2. Sorting out the transition solution to multiple operational teams.
3. Provision of project performance feedback.3. Provision of performance feedback to the project leads.
4. Diffusion of resources back to the source.4. Diffusion of project lead.
5. Financial contracts closing.5. Closing of all financial contracts.
6. Documentation of project.6. Documentation of all the components of program (All Projects).

Every project has its own learning points & lessons for the project manager which he is supposed to pass on his respective resource person. That is ultimate learning lesson for resource person as well. So the evaluation of project is must for this purpose. Sothat the weaknesses strength, achievements & failures could be sorted out. In other word SWOT analysis could be facilitated.

What is Program Management?

Program management is defined as the process of planning, organizing, controlling and leading of all financial & human resources to achieve the organizational goals by using a centralized authority. It is an ongoing set of activities could be inside the organization. Like: safety programs, employees skill development program etc.

It is the process of managing multiple ongoing projects. These projects may be different in nature, for example: infrastructure, manufacturing & designing. Coordination and allocation of resources on priority to all project or program components is essentialities of program management.

What is Project Management?

Project management on the other hand is deliverables designed within a project framework. Conventionally this framework is established by the project management office also called as PMO or project lead.

Project can be multidimensional or standalone depending upon scope of objective.

Similarities between Project Management & Program Management:


Planning is soul of both project and program management. Execution and objective attainment is dreamy if proper and timely planning is not made.


Time to time keeping eye on the activities is necessary. It would ensure if execution is made accordingly. It is done for program management and project management as well.


Estimation and allocation of resources as per requirement is made. Though financing for project is simple as compared to program.


The progress of project and program is reported as per scheduled however, quarterly results is exception to only programs. Document Archive is prepared at the closure.

Roles of Project Manager Vs Program Manager:

Program Manager

Project Manager

1. Program manager is a far sighted leader who designs objective of the whole program.1. He is objected to achieve project objectives.
2. Activities of program level are planned by him and projects are scheduled.2. Project manager plans the project as defined by the program manager.
3. He designs the TORs.3. He is obliged to work within the said TORs.
4. He has the authority to start, pause and monitor the projects.4. He is tasked to run the project and report the program manager accordingly.
5. He manages project issues and delegates the risks.5. However, he minimizes the risks which affect program.
6. He is entitled to set standards for the all projects.6. He is liable to run the project according to set standards and policies.
7. Program manager determines resources7. While project manager utilizes the allocated resources.
8. Program manager is skilled and person having technical & professional command.8. Project manager has little insight for political awareness
9. The role of program manager is important because he is involved in organizational decision making.9. He is only concerned with the management of project assigned.
10. He has role in financial management process and decisions.10. He can only use the budget set for the assigned project.

Concluding the discussion program and project are two different and similar concepts at the same time. At the points where similarities coincide the differences originates as well. The above comparison articulates that program management is exemplified as universe whereas project is a planet like. The success of project is not the success of program however; success of program entails the project efficiency.


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