Program Management vs Project Management

Program Management vs Project Management

Do you know about the differences between program management vs project management? Let's get started with this article!

January 1, 2022


Debates about projects or programs have been a burning topic of discussion for many years. Distinguishing between Program management vs Project management can help us to better understand the art of leadership and correct our own behavior. Let’s follow this article to discover more about the differences between these two aspects.

Definition of the Program vs Project

What is Project management?

Before defining project management, we need to have a clear concept of what a project is? To be more specific, a project is understood as a process consisting of works that are coordinated with each other, have a start date, an end date, and work towards a certain goal.  It is an organizational unit dedicated to the pursuit of a goal, satisfactory completion of product development on time, within budget, in accordance with the desired level of performance.

A project consists of a regular and interconnected set of activities, with an objective, having a defined objective, and which requires to be completed with the specified time and resources. Projects can vary in size, i.e. small, medium, large and very large. Upon completion of the project, a final product is received. In particular, the project is limited in terms of time, cost, and resources, so it is necessary to perform project management to achieve the goal in the most effective way.

To dig deeper into the management of a project, read more Project management

What is Program management?

A program can be defined as a framework of work plans, consisting of a set of projects that complement each other and are sequenced in a suitable sequence to achieve economies of scale. Projects are grouped into a single program when the resulting benefits of a collection replace the benefits of managing individual projects. It consists of various projects initiated to achieve organizational goals. It is done to improve the overall performance of the organization, as it involves business process reengineering, change management,…

Program Management vs Project Management
Program Management vs Project Management


The main difference between project and program

The difference between project and program can be drawn clearly on the following grounds:

  • Several activities that have been done to create a different product or service, with specific purposes, is called a project. A bundle of projects that are linked together, logically for achieving combined benefits, is called a program.
  • While the project is content-specific, the focus is on delivering the required results. In contrast, a context-specific program links different related projects together to achieve the ultimate goal of the organization.
  • A project is distinct and is within the allotted time. At the other extreme, a program is eternal and implemented within the enterprise to continuously get the results of the entity.
  • A project deals with specific products, while a program deals with the benefits received, from its implementation.
  • The scope of the program is wider than the project, the project operates on a single functional unit, while the program operates on different functional units.
  • The tasks performed by the project manager, to complete the project, are of a technical nature. In contrast, the tasks undertaken for successful program execution, are strategic in nature.
  • There is a specific output generation required by the project. On the contrary, the program produces the general results necessary for the growth and survival of the organization in the long run.
  • One can measure the effectiveness of a project by assessing product quality, timeliness, cost-effectiveness, compliance, and customer satisfaction. On the contrary, in order to measure the effectiveness of a program, one needs to check if it meets the needs and benefits for which it has been implemented.

The Four Dimensions of Project Management vs Program Management 

Each project/program often combines four following dimensions:

Project scope

Project scope is the part of project planning that involves identifying and documenting a list of specific project objectives, tasks, tasks, costs, and deadlines. The project’s scope document, known as the scope statement or terms of reference, explains project boundaries, establishes responsibilities for each team member, and verification and approval processes. Review completed work.

Large projects tend to change as they progress. If a project has been effectively scoped from the outset, it’s easier to manage these changes. When documenting project scope, stakeholders should be as specific as possible to avoid project scope overruns – a situation where one or more parts of a project end up requiring a lot of work, time, and effort due to poor strategy planning or miscommunication among members in a project.

Here are several benefits in terms of scope management recommended to any organization running a new project:

  • Clearly state what the project entails so that all stakeholders can understand what is involved
  • Provides a roadmap that managers can use to assign tasks, organize work, and budget properly
  • Helps focus team members on common goals
  • Prevent projects, especially complex ones, from expanding beyond the established scope.

Project managers often find that setting project scope ensures projects stay focused and deliver on expectations. Scope provides a solid foundation for managing a project as it moves forward and helps ensure that resources are not diverted or wasted on factors out of scope.


“Stakeholder” is a term used to refer to individuals, groups, and organizations that have a close relationship with an enterprise, especially in projects or programs. This is an audience that has an interest, can share resources, influence, and/or at the same time suffer direct or indirect impacts on business operations in terms of strategies, plans, business activities, portfolio, project… Stakeholders also include a group of important stakeholders who have the ability to influence or decide on the existence and development of the business.

The impact of Stakeholders is often most significant in the first stages of the project or program. At this stage, the project is often flexible and can be changed so that almost all stakeholders can clearly be aware of this. The influence of Stakeholders often drops off remarkable when starting the construction, but will boom again during the project handover period. Therefore, the most effective principle of Stakeholder management is that project managers/leaders should manage stakeholder expectations continuously to ensure that their project results meet the demand and expectations of Stakeholders.

Stakeholders can be considered the foundation for the success of any project. The implementation plans, the factors of input demand, the way to deal with the outputs… are all quite important links with stakeholders and bring benefits for the mutual connection in the process of completing the project.

Having a group of stakeholders is regarded as having a strong resource. In the case of unilateral implementation, the success rate is also there but accounts for quite a bit. Therefore, when planning the implementation of the project, please invite the stakeholders to cooperate with each other. There will be difficulties, but it will be more effective than doing it on your own.

Risk consists of 3 factors: the probability of occurrence, ability to affect the object, and duration of influence. The essence of risk is uncertainty, then if it is certain (probability is 0% or 100%), it is not called a risk.


Risks can be distinguished according to the following criteria:

  • Dynamic risk: associated with change, especially in the economy. Those are risks whose consequences can be beneficial, but can also bring loss (the change in customer tastes may be suitable for the product that the business is trading or not? Is the change in technology suitable with the financial capacity of the business, is the change too fast or not?…)
  • Static risks: the consequences of which are related only to the occurrence of losses or not, but not to the possibility of profitability, and are not affected by changes in the economy. Static risks are often related to objects: property, people, civil liability.

Project risk management is usually performed by managers and leaders to identify situations, problems, and events that may affect the business in the future to promptly take preventive measures. Therefore, they can limit the amount of risk while finding ways to turn the risk into an opportunity for success.

In the management system in the enterprise, project risk management is considered a relatively important factor with core values ​​that need to be considered in parallel with production and business activities.

Change (Uncertainty)

The nature of change exists in two forms: translational transformation and total transformation. Translational transformations are small changes that occur naturally and continuously in the day-to-day operations of an organization. Meanwhile, the comprehensive changes are towards a clear change in the strategy, people, organization, technology, and culture of the enterprise. Thus, change management is essentially controlling the change of one of the five factors mentioned above, depending on the current status of each organization. Even governance can require simultaneous impact on all these aspects for many organizations and in some corporate training consulting programs.

Change management is the whole process of proactively reforming the activities of an enterprise in order to create greater competition against other businesses in the market, using methods and techniques. support from individuals, groups, and organizations to transition from the current state to the new state. It involves many different fields, from sociology to behavioral sciences, information technology, and business solutions.

Change management helps projects implement change proactively, in the right direction, and at the right time. This is the condition for them to survive and develop effectively in a constantly changing environment. In today’s business environment, more than in any previous era, the only constant is the change. Successful organizations manage change effectively, constantly adapting to any changes in the business environment to adapt to the changes and thrive with forces.

Project Management Typology

For the classification of projects, there are currently three main types of projects: investment projects, public investment projects, and public-private partnership projects.

  • Investment project: Including activities on expected investment, equipment, plans together with assigned resources. Form a coherent strategy with a timetable, location,… to achieve certain profitable goals.
  • Public investment projects: Including the State’s investment activities in programs and projects to build socio-economic infrastructure. At the same time, invest in programs and projects for socio-economic development.
  • Public-private partnership project: A cooperation project between the State and investors and enterprises together to implement an infrastructure development project. And provide public services on the basis of project contracts.

Program Management Typology

Program strategy alignment

The process of aligning the activities of an organization’s business units and its employees with the organization’s planned objectives. The ability of most businesses to achieve their strategic goals would benefit from implementing a comprehensive strategic alignment to help ensure that their departments and employees are working together towards the stated goals of the company.

Program benefits management

Program benefits management is a combination of the process of identifying, planning, measuring, and keeping track of the benefits of stakeholders and organizers from the start to the end of the program or project. Its purpose is to ensure that the benefits can be given in a specific, measurable, and realistic way.

Stakeholders management

Stakeholders are individuals, groups, and organizations that have an interest or can share resources, influence and/or at the same time suffer direct or indirect effects on business operations in terms of strategies, plans, business activities, portfolio, project… Since stakeholders play a vital role in the development of any project or company, stakeholders management can be considered a particularly important task.

Significant Difference Between Program and Project management

Project management is the process of planning, coordinating time, resources, and monitoring the development of a project to ensure that the project is completed on time, within the approved budget. Specified requirements for the technical and quality of products and services by the best possible methods and conditions.

Meanwhile, program management is defined as the application of knowledge, skills, and principles to a program with the purpose of achieving program goals and obtaining benefits by managing individual program components. A program component refers to the projects and sub-programs within a large program.

Programs are often long-term, projects are often short-term

A program typically lasts for a much longer period of time than a project. In addition, managing a program involves long-term strategies that a project may not need. The long-term nature of programs also means that managing programs involves a process of continual improvement.

Programs are closely linked to the financial plan of the institution

Program managers are typically responsible for delivering results that are tied to an organization’s financial plan. Meanwhile, projects are usually based on that project’s timeframe. For example, a project manager would not be responsible for providing quarterly results, while a program manager would typically be tied to a company’s quarterly results.

Program management is in-depth management

Programs are typically provided, directed, supervised, and controlled by a senior management team. To manage the program requires the manager to be able to influence at this level. They must also come up with measures to resolve disagreements between managers. Program managers must also ensure that governing boards set achievable goals for programs

Projects can have a similar management mechanism. However, they have little tendency to be administratively intensive.

The program has a broader scope of financial management

Projects often have a fairly clear budget. Project financial management is focused on spending within that budget.

On the part of the program managers, they can be responsible for revenues and expenses that are important to an organization’s financial results. As a result, planning, managing, and controlling the budget of a program is often much more complex than project management.

Managing program change requires executive leadership

Projects often use a disciplined change management process. Meanwhile, changes that occur within a program are more difficult to manage. The program is guided by the organization’s strategies, depending on market conditions and their objectives. So, at the program level, managing the changes that take place requires executive leadership skills.

Read more about Change Management Plan 

Project vs program management skills

Leadership skill

In essence, the project manager is the team leader of a project. They are responsible for setting the direction and vision for the team and making sure everyone is on the right track to get the project through each stage.

Organization and planning skills

A good project manager must have planning skills. They have the responsibility for making plans based on both long-term and short-term goals to achieve success for the project. Project managers must map out the steps needed to take them and create specific plans for completing the project.

The project manager will have to determine the scope and size of the project and then plan the allocation of resources needed to complete the project. It is also important to plan the time and budget to complete the project.

Communication skills

Along with leadership, excellent communication skills are critical to any project manager’s success. You need to make sure that all departments and stakeholders are kept up to date on the latest developments in the project. You also need to make sure they understand any changes and are aware of the progress.

You will have to present the plan, convince your superiors to provide enough resources so that you can get the job done. Besides, you also have to communicate and implement plans with team members, so good communication ability will be a strong advantage of a project manager.

Risk management skills

Your project will not always go smoothly without a hitch, there will be times when you will have problems with countless objective reasons delaying the project or worse, completing the project with bad results. Projects rarely succeed immediately without at least one hiccup or change of plan. That is the reason why you also need to be a master risk manager in the position of project manager.

The project manager must have the mindset, vision, and even ability to predict what might happen to save the plan, so let’s build flexibility in your project plan to account for unexpected changes.

Value-based Management


Value-based management is a tool for maximizing corporate value. Value-based management uses assessment techniques in performance management, business control, and decision-making. The value of the company is determined according to the discounted future cash flows. Value is created when a company invests capital to get a return above the cost of capital. All strategies and decisions are tested against potential value creation.

There are many ways to use a value-based management model. The simplest way is to use in financial statements, profits will incur a cost of capital (added economic value).

This model can also be used for capital budgeting and investment analysis. All investments are tested against the required cost of capital. When being used correctly, this model will help align all activities and decisions made on key drivers of value.

Applying value-based management model

Value-based management is used to set goals, measure performance, determine returns, and communicate with investors, as well as to prepare and evaluate capital budgets.

Traditional accounting systems determine the value of organizations based on performance measures such as earnings per share or return on equity. However, they do not consider the efficiency of exploitation and use of resources as well as the opportunity cost of capital investment.

The above article has provided you with beneficial information about Program management vs Project management as well as how to distinguish these two aspects in terms of the developing process of organizations. We all hope that this information will definitely help you have a better start to your project or program manager career.

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