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Program Management vs. Project Management

Program Management vs. Project Management

4 minutes

July 11, 2022

Here’s a general rule of thumb to start with: Programs are big and projects are small(er).

Program Management

Programs are made up of multiple related and dependent projects, carefully scoped and resourced to deliver multiple, overarching goals. It’s a case where the whole (program) is greater than the sum of its parts (projects), just like an assembled, fully working car is more valuable than a pile of loose car parts. Programs are typically managed by a team of people in a dedicated Program Management Office (PMO) that include Program Managers, executive stakeholders and support staff. Program Managers oversee daily delivery with a focus on strategy, delegating, and communicating status, risks and issues between project owners and program stakeholders. Programs can be quite complex and often are initiated to deliver some form of business, technological or strategic transformation in larger enterprises. The individual projects making up a program are managed using a delivery methodology, such as waterfall or agile.

SmartSuite’s work management platform and solution offerings are built to be flexible and can support any number of methodologies (there are many, many methodologies out in the mainstream). Generally, the practices defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) serve as the foundation of SmartSuite’s approach.

Project Management

Every project is unique, and can range from complex to simple. Projects are temporary endeavors undertaken to create a specific and unique result. Achieving the goal may require multiple workstreams, deliverables and interdependent milestones. Or the scope could be simple, requiring only a small team with sequential tasks to arrive at the destination. As the name implies, Project Managers oversee the delivery of projects. They define scope, manage timelines, create cost estimates, work with project team members, and create status reports while managing risks and issues. If part of an overarching program, each Project Manager will interact with the PMO to roll-up status, escalate issues and manage the daily blocking and tackling. The program is successful only when each project delivers its scope of work.

The Difference

Think of Projects as being best suited to delivering one primary goal, while Programs are best for delivering multiple goals simultaneously. The scope and bundling of projects and programs are often managed through a project portfolio management process that seeks to maximize the value delivered by programs and projects towards the organization’s top strategic initiatives. Entire careers and departments are built around project management, growing in complexity with the size of an organization.We’ll stop ourselves from diving too deep on these topics (for now), but here’s a truth we believe at SmartSuite: Delivery is an art. Whether you’re orchestrating programs or delivering critical projects, it takes focus and dedication to arrive on time and on budget. 

SmartSuite offers a flexible canvas to support many methodologies and types of project work. Our solution library offers ready-to-use templates for Program Management, Project Management for more complex milestone-driving projects, and Simple Projects to track dates, activities and status. Specialized templates are available for a wide range of projects, including Agile Projects, Construction Projects, Legal Cases, Initiative Tracker. Supporting solutions can be added to accounts to help with key functions of project delivery, such as Project Portfolio Management, Project Requests, Time Tracking, Expense Tracking, Change Requests, Status Reports - and more.

So if you’re a Project Manager Delivery Artist, come join us in building the next generation of project management capabilities in your organization.

Recommended Templates (live interactive demo):‍

Project Management

Program Management

Task Manager

Project Requests

Project Portfolio

Team Meetings