You may be surprised to see the roles of project manager and programme manager in a series of articles about the roles within a project management office (PMO). With ever-changing project demands, knowing how project managers and programme manager fit into your PMO is useful.

Of course, every business and its PMO is different. Indeed, your PMO may even be a programme management office. Whichever way your office works, it will be working closely with one or both of these roles.

To help you understand them better, we’re going to look at:

  • The difference between a project manager and programme manager
  • The role and responsibilities of each
  • How your PMO might work with programme and project managers

So you understand the structures you’re working around.

What is the difference between a project manager and a programme manager?

The difference between a project and programme manager is that a project manager is responsible for a single project while a programme manager is responsible for a collection of related projects.

A project manager implements clear tactics to get a project delivered. They need to complete everything from planning and scheduling a project to delivering and closing it, and do it on time and on budget.

On the other hand, a programme manager is in charge of the strategy that will deliver a suite of projects, or a programme. The programme could be an ongoing transformation or a time-limited set of projects like opening new outlets in a business or delivering the assets for a new product.

What’s the role and responsibilities of a project manager?

A project manager needs to get a project planned and delivered. They are responsible for making sure project KPIs like budget and timeline are hit and that the product matches the clients’ needs.

Some of the key tasks that a project manager will complete include:

  • Planning and scheduling a project
  • Assigning people to the tasks as needed
  • Ordering resources for the project
  • Monitoring the work of the project team
  • Coaching and motivating the project team
  • Ensure expenses are logged and monitored
  • Deliver data to the PMO and work with them to identify issues and wins
  • Closeout a project on delivery

What’s the role and responsibilities of a programme manager?

A programme manager needs to take charge of a set of projects and tasks that are part of the same strategic goal. They are responsible for the coordination of the tasks to ensure they work together and achieve the planned end result within budget and on time.

A programme manager will usually:

  • Planning how the projects in the programme will be executed
  • Understanding and mitigating the risks within the programme
  • Defining and monitoring project KPIs
  • Seconding or hiring the right talent for projects
  • Contributing data to the PMO about programme performance

You may also find a programme manager needs to deal with budgets and also work on quality control for a project. This may fall elsewhere, depending on how the programme manager works with the PMO and the rest of the business.

How does a PMO work with programme and project managers?

Traditionally, a project manager would report to a senior project manager or the head of the department where their project sat under.

However, as the role of the PMO develops and projects are becoming more ad hoc, it can make sense for project managers to be a part of the PMO structure. This can be beneficial for your office as well as how projects are run.

Some of the benefits of having project managers report to the PMO include:

  • Less friction between the project function and governance
  • Easier access to knowledge for the PMO with project managers on hand
  • Better information sharing and process improvement

Similarly, program managers may have previously fulfilled a role like that of a PMO or been appointed to deal with strategy while a PMO worked on data analysis, support functions, and processes.

Enterprise and business-focussed PMOs will play a part in strategy and the commissioning of projects in line with business strategy. Having a program manager role to work on strategy within your PMO is a smart, forward-thinking move.

Project managers and program managers in a PMO

It’s becoming more common for a project manager and program manager to fit into a PMO structure rather than work alongside it. It can make everyone’s work smoother and help ensure the PMO always knows what’s going on with projects, sometimes quicker than the data can report.