A program manager is a management professional who oversees and coordinates several projects, products, and strategic initiatives in an organization. He/ she is tasked with clearly ironing out the interdependencies among projects, offering guidance to project managers, and facilitating communication between different project teams.
To clearly explain what program managers do, we first need to define what a program is. A program is a set of related projects in an organization that are part of a strategic business initiative. These initiatives differ and may range from implementing a new sales process, expanding the business, or introducing a given product to the market.
Several programs run together concurrently in an organization, affecting change and driving company growth via innovation and market expansion. Other means may include digital transformation and given efficiencies.
Therefore, a program manager views the entire program and ensures that all project managers are working towards the achievement of the program’s objectives. Keep in mind that each project in a program is overseen by a project manager who then answers the program manager.
Program Manager Job Description
The program’s manager job description is closely linked to that of a project manager. He/ she designs, coordinates, and improves both the internal and external programs of the company. In case you are wondering why they are linked to project managers, remember that a program is a set of projects aimed at achieving a given business initiative.
A program manager must consider how the projects reflect and their place in the organizational goals. He/ she is responsible for several things in the organization, given the changing nature of business.
A program manager job description includes:
- Authorization of different programs based on their mandates and the company’s welfare.
- Appointing officials such as senior responsible owner to represent and look out for the welfare of the sponsor.
- Resolving issues that may arise among team members and strategic issues that may need the attention of senior managers.
- Showing support to the program and the mandated team. This support must be expressed through action.
- Reporting to other stakeholders and confirming the successful completion of given programs.
- Identifying opportunities that are worth channeling team efforts to help in the achievement of a series of projects.
- Working closely with the communication and management team to increase program awareness among the different stakeholders.
A product manager’s job is essential to a business as he/ she ensures that the projects delivered measure up to the standard of the industry and offer real value against business opportunities.
You can establish that part of his job description is to offer leadership, be it to the program team or the project managers.
Program Manager Skills
Every career requires a given set of skills for success and successful operation. The same also applies to program management, which is one of the essential divisions in an organization. It is normal to feel like you are best suited for program management after a few big and successful projects here and there.
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However, you need to understand that program management is not any similar to project management. It requires many skills owing to the job descriptions. Some of the requisite skills include:
- Good communication skills
Program management involved the coordination of different project teams. To be a good project manager, you must harness your communication ability and get comfortable relaying information at different organization levels.
You must also understand that you will be addressing different audiences, and therefore, your communication should be flexible enough to accommodate everyone.
- Conflict resolution skills
It is not uncommon for people to have misunderstandings while working on different programs. Since your role will be coordinating and managing other program teams, you must know how to handle misunderstandings.
A program manager needs to have top-notch conflict resolution skills after putting together several heads in one room to develop a common ground for all parties.
- Ability to command respect
People will not take one seriously as a manager if he/ she does not command respect. However, this does not mean that a program manager should become unnecessarily harsh or unapproachable. He/ she needs to have certain boundaries and still maintain a good relationship with different project teams.
Program management is all about bringing together several parts of the business that may have different agendas. A person tasked with managing programs should be command respect from subordinates to keep them working together for the company’s benefit.
- Leadership Skills
Management is all about leadership. Keep in mind that a program manager manages different project managers, which puts a high threshold on him/ her. One, therefore, ceases to be a mere manager but a manager of managers.
Once the company hires you as a program manager, it will be your job to get the work done, which will definitely involve a team. One needs to show seriousness and strong leadership ability from the start by building a trustworthy team of individuals who understand that the company’s interest comes first.
You have to steer such a team to excellence, which requires strong leadership ability. It is essential to build a good team from the start since you will not have to force a plan on them, and they can both coordinates well, effectively contributing towards the realization of business objectives.
Good leadership skills will make your work as a program manager more appealing and easier.
- Risk management mindset
Business is all about risks. Whereas some are avoidable, others are not and must be faced head-on for overall success. A good program manager needs to have a constant risk management mindset to tackle risks that he/ she may encounter along the way to realize business initiatives successfully.
One needs to always think about what could go wrong in a given program daily and plan to mitigate the effects. However, there exist managers who are so consumed with fear to the point that they take ages before bringing a program to life.
While this is understandable, one has to show that he/ she is up to the task, start and then act accordingly. Pilin work may cause even more risks, which one is better off without. Lesser risks, the better the mitigation.
- Knowledge of program management principles
A program manager must be aware of sound program management principles. What separates a program manager and a project manager is the scope of management. While one is only responsible for a given project, another one is tasked with coordinating several.
A program manager should know how to track and follow up on different issues, manage risks, come up with plans and master the several project management stages and requirements. Good program management skills define the success of a given program, dictating whether it will fit a business’ initiatives or not.
A program manager should be comfortable even in an uncertain business. It isn’t easy to fully understand every detail when dealing with an extensive program. A good manager should be able to go through the program without having everything at hand effectively.
Whereas this should not be the case, there are given uncertainties that may be out of his/ her control. One needs to understand that the control enjoyed by project managers is often limited when it comes to program management, meaning that flexibility is critical.
A program manager should be focused on delivering business benefit. All decisions should stem from a place of promoting business initiatives. The only way to achieve this is by making decisions that offer the best results and foster the given project.
Program Manager Salary
Program managers are paid well in the United States. Their average take-home salary, according to Payscale, is $83,909 a year, which is way higher than most professions. This translates to about $25.83 an hour.
Payscale has established that most of them take home $51,000-$134,000 annually, with some earning as high as $55 an hour. This rate also differs depending on the years of experience. As you may have guessed by now, the most experienced ones are paid more.
Those with 1-4 years earn an average of $85k yearly, whereas those with 5-9 years’ experience make $98. Those with experience of between 10 and 19 years earn $111k, whereas 20+ years have a lucrative pay of $119k and above.
It has also been established that there are specific skills that influence these values. These include leadership and strategic planning. However, it is worth noting that these two skills are acquired as one gains experience in the industry.
All in all, different skills affect people’s salary.
Product Manager Certifications
Being a program manager requires certain certifications. It is a senior-level practitioner role, and an individual is charged with promoting and achieving the strategic goals of a given organization.
The business world is fast inclining towards technology, and therefore, you need to be IT-literate. Some of the useful certifications if you aim to become a competent program manager are PgMP Program Management Professional) from PMI and MSP Practitioner (Managing Successful Programs)
You may need to pursue both certifications as most employers dictate what they need in an employee. There are only two certifications in this field, which is quite peculiar since related areas such as project management have several certifications.
To be eligible for PgMP, you need a secondary degree such as a high school diploma, an associate’s degree, or its global equivalent. You also need 48 months of project management experience and 84 months of program management experience within the last fifteen years.
You will also be eligible if you have a four-year degree, PMP, and 48 months of program management experience within the last fifteen years. This clearly shows that having a program management certification is a big deal.
Tools and Software for Program Manager
Program managers depend on several tools for seamless operation and effective management. These range from general use to Agile tools. Some of the most common include Basecamp, Wrike, Liquid Planner, Workzone, Wrike, and CA Clarity.
Some of the common software are Scoro, Notion, and JIRA. All these helps in effective management and follow up of projects.
The Role of Program Manager in Project Management
A program manager plays an essential role in project management. As we mentioned, a program is a combination of projects to help the business meet certain objectives. The program manager is in charge of coordinating all the projects and their interdependencies, which is an essential step in their realization.
Here are other important roles:
- Budgeting. A program manager is in charge of budgeting for the whole program, dictating the number of resources channelled to each project. Therefore, he/she indirectly affects the funding of given tasks.
- Utilization of resources across projects. The program manager manages and utilizes resources across projects. Therefore, he is in charge of everything that project managers need for the fulfillment and realization of set projects in the company.
- Monitoring progress. Management is all about coordination and monitoring. Therefore, a program manager monitors different projects as they progress, from the start to their completion.
- Risk management. There are given risks associated with projects that businesses cannot escape. A program manager establishes all the potential risks in the projects that make up a program and prepare adequate mitigation procedures.
- Conducting stakeholders’ communication- Stakeholder communication is essential for the realization of business projects. No business can succeed if stakeholders are not kept in the loop, given that they have different levels of influence and interests. It is the role of the program manager to oversee that all the stakeholders in a given program are communicated to effectively.
- Planning. Planning is just as important as execution. The success of different programs is defined at the start. A program manager, therefore, ensures that everything is in place starting from the projects.
These are just but a few of the roles that program managers play to ensure that different business programs are successful. They are staked with managing and monitoring all stages and processes, which explains why they must meet a high threshold for certification. Most of their work revolves around managing managers and coordinating with different stakeholders to benefit the business.
A program manager’s job is quite detailed and involves lots of risk-taking and management. This article should give you a detailed look at what it takes to become one if it is part of your ambitions. It is, however, manageable if you have the right skills. If you are looking for Program Manager job opportunities, visit Jooble.