Roles, responsibilities, and skills in Program Management

Before you read this blog, it will be helpful if you first get familiar with project management and everything it involves.

Program management is something similar but works differently.

Project Management Institute of USA, mentions the definition of Project, Project Management, Program, and Program Management as per below in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, PMBOK Guide VIth Edition –

What is a project?  

A project, as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.

What is Project Management?  

Project Management, as the application of knowledge, skills tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements. 

What is a program?

A program, as a group of related projects, subprograms, and program activities that are managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.

What is Program Management?

Program Management, as the application of knowledge, skills, and principles to a program to achieve the program objectives and to obtain benefits and control not available by managing program components individually. 

Example 1 – To start a new website, which can be looked at as a program. The related projects could be designing of the website, development of the website, running a marketing campaign for the website.

Example 2 – A new satellite system program with related projects for deigning of the satellite, construction of the satellite, designing of the ground stations, construction of the ground stations, launching of the satellite and integration of the satellite

Who is a Program Manager?

Program Manager

Firstly, a program manager can be thought of as a manager of the project manager’s or group manager as in earlier days. The roles and responsibilities of a group manager were not the same as of today’s program manager, though. 

Secondly, a program manager’s role is mainly operational and is responsible for planning, governance, and overseeing the successful delivery of the program’s output (product).

Thirdly, although the program manager’s knowledge of the business is important, stress is more on program management skills.

Responsibilities of a Program Manager are: -

  • Required to have a broad view of program objectives
  • Ensure program goals and objectives are and remain aligned to the overall strategic objectives of the organization
  • Set up the program and then managing it ensuring that it is performing according to the plan
  • Program management throughout the program life cycle by planning the overall program and monitoring the progress on a daily basis
  • Define the program governance (controls) and then management and oversight of the program’s interactions with the program governance function
  • Familiarity with organizational cultures and their processes
  • Familiarity with project and program management methodology and techniques
  • Engage all stakeholders 
  • Manage communication across all stakeholders 
  • Manage the program’s budget
  • Manage risks and issues and taking corrective measurements
  • Coordinate the projects and their interdependencies
  • Manage and utilize resources across projects
  • Align the deliverables (outputs) to the program’s outcome along with business change manager and 
  • Manage all program documentation
  • Ability to find innovative ways to resolve problems or issues, systematically and effectively during the course of the program, such as optimizing and sharing resources across the program for obtaining benefits overseeing requirements and configuration management across components

Skills and attributes of the Program Manager –

The program manager must have strong practical experience in managing large and complex projects. He or she must have the following: -

  • Must possess strong leadership and management skills 
  • Must possess strong communication skills to interact effectively with various stakeholders such as customers, sponsors, senior management, project managers, project team members, vendors, suppliers, and other program stakeholders
  • Developing a program communications management plan to address the stakeholders needs and expectations and also to provide key information in a timely manner in the format designed by the requestor
  • Must have an experience working as a project manager
  • Must be strong in managing program’s scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communication, risk, procurements, and integration aspects
  • Must also be strong in establishing program governance and program financial management i.e, budget management
  • Ability to work with the wide range of individuals involved in program management to help them successfully complete their work and also to integrate the components deliverables into the program’s end product, service and results with benefits
  • Identification of stakeholders, getting an understanding of their needs and expectations, developing a stakeholder engagement strategy to support these stakeholders so that the stakeholder’s expectations can be aligned with the program objectives and ultimately improve the overall acceptance of the program objectives.

Who is the Business Change Manager (BCM)?

Business Change Manager

One of the basic differences between project management and program management is the management and realization of benefits. A project manager focuses on outputs i.e, product, service or result, whereas program manager focuses on outcomes, which is the final result brought about through the utilization of the outputs.
This is where a business change manager comes into the picture. His role is that of planning and managing the benefits realization by incorporating and releasing the new capability within the business practices. The business change manager is a representative of the business and has more emphasis on his or her knowledge of the business processes and the organization’s strategic objectives.

Responsibilities of a Business Change Manager

  • Define the benefits that will realize the strategic objectives of the program
  • Develop the benefits realization plan in consultation or with the program manager
  • Focus on the realization of the benefits
  • Define and track all the identified key performance indicators for realizing benefits
  • Ensure and Manage “business continuity” during the change
  • Advise the program manager on whether the outputs and outcomes will lead to the realization of the benefits
  • To transition to the new way of working, assist and help adopt affected business areas by implementing new business processes
  • Optimize the timing of the release of new deliverables into business operations

Skills and attributes of the Business Change Manager
Must-haves –

  • a very good understanding of the management structure, politics, and culture of the organization 
  • strong background and ongoing operational responsibilities in the relevant business areas affected by the program
  • possess good change management skills 
  • while maintaining focus on the program’s objectives must be able to manage very complex situations

Soft Skills –

  • good negotiation skills
  • interpersonal skills
  • chaos management skills
  • prioritization skills

The Program Management Office

Project Management Office

The project management office is also called as a program management office as it has similar functions and a wider perspective. The PMO can vary from one person acting as “program support” or a program office manager supported by a large team of individuals. PMO may be decentralized or may be centralized if the program is scattered nationally or globally. PMO is set up to support a specific major program or may support all the organization’s programs, where, it may be integrated with the organization’s permanent project management office.

Responsibilities of the program management office:-

  • Setting up tools, processes, procedures, and standards for managing the program
  • Cross-project interdependency management 
  • Planning, tracking and reporting on outputs and outcomes
  • Financial planning and tracking
  • Risk and Issue tracking
  • Information management
  • logistics management
  • Setting quality control standards and ensuring compliance
  • Setting change control procedures and ensuring compliance
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Communications management among stakeholders

Additional roles that a permanent PMO can have:-

  • Strategic reporting on all programs to senior management
  • Providing consultation to projects and programs
  • Arranging training to projects and programs team
  • Surprise audits on projects and programs
  • Health checks on projects and programs and report to senior management

Skills and attributes of the program office manager (POM)

  • A long experience of effective program management
  • Proficiency in program and project management methodologies
  • Adequate knowledge and experience in the use of the various program management tools
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills

A sample Program Manager Job Description (Reference

Program Manager Responsibilities

  • Duties of a Program Manager Include:
  • Formulating, organizing and monitoring inter-connected projects
  • Deciding on suitable strategies and objectives
  • Coordinating cross-project activities

Job brief

We are looking for an experienced Program Manager to organize and coordinate programs. You will provide strategic guidance to teams and project managers in ways that promote the company’s culture. You will also oversee the progress of operations. 

The ideal candidate will be an excellent leader and will have experience in managing a staff of different disciplines to produce results in a timely manner. They will also be able to develop efficient strategies and tactics. The goal is to ensure that all programs deliver a desirable outcome for our organization.


  • Formulate, organize and monitor inter-connected projects
  • Decide on suitable strategies and objectives
  • Coordinate cross-project activities
  • Lead and evaluate project managers and other staff
  • Develop and control deadlines, budgets, and activities
  • Apply change, risk and resource management
  • Assume responsibility for the program’s people and vendors
  • Assess program performance and aim to maximize ROI
  • Resolve projects’ higher scope issues
  • Prepare reports for program directors


  • Proven experience as a Program Manager or other managerial position
  • Thorough understanding of project/program management techniques and methods
  • Excellent Knowledge of performance evaluation and change management principles
  • Excellent knowledge of MS Office; working knowledge of program/project management software (Basecamp, MS Project, etc.) is a strong advantage
  • Outstanding leadership and organizational skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Excellent problem-solving ability
  • BSc/BA diploma in management or a relevant field; MSc/MA is a plus


Program Management is slightly different as compared to roject management. In Program management, most of the roles of Project Management are already infused but there are few roles in Program management which carry different responsibilities. Therefore, in Program Management, it is required to have different roles as compared to the team members of project management.

Project management deals with outputs such as products and deliverables, and program management deals with outcomes such as the final result produced after the application of such outputs. 

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Nitinn S Gokhle