Program Management

Insights | 02 October 2009

While there is a strong link between programs and projects, it is important to understand the differences in order to correctly identify program management.

Program management is strategic in nature and often deals with ‘the unknown’. It is highly cross-functional and integrates individual elements of related projects in order to achieve a broader business value.

A program usually involves a series of projects. These projects are managed by project managers while the program is managed by a program manager. Project management and program management techniques are then used in association.

Some of the differences between programs and projects include the following:


  • Normally large with complex threads of work
  • There is a vision of the outcome but no clearly defined path to get there
  • The path is discovered gradually and projects are often formed along the way to deliver specific outputs
  • Usually require major strategic level investments
  • An example is a ‘Productivity Improvement Program’


  • Have a clear start, middle and end
  • Deliver specific outcomes
  • Have a clear path forward
  • An example is a new HR management system

A Difference of Opinion

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and the Project Management Institute (PMI®) have differing definitions of program management.

OGC Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) Definition

The co-ordinated organisation, direction and implementation of a portfolio of projects and activities that together achieve outcomes and realise benefits that are of strategic objectives.

PMI® Definition

A program is a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available to them individually.

Program management is the centralised coordinated management of a program to achieve the program’s strategic benefits and objectives.

PM-Partners group’s Program Management Services

PM-Partners group offers education and consultancy services in program management and program management training.

  • We are an APMG Accredited Training Organisation (ATO) for Managing Successful Programs
  • We are a Global Registered Education Provider for the Project Management Institute (PMI®)
  • We are registered assessors of the Australian Insitute of Project Management (AIPM) and can assist individuals and organisations with training, certification and process development.

For more information or to speak to one of our consultants, please contact PM-Partners group on 1300 701 314.

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