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By Denis G.

4 minutes

What Does a Program Manager Do?

In the last article we looked at what exactly is a program. Now that we understand programs, it’s time to look at the role of a Program Manager. The question, “So, what exactly does a Program Manager do?” is one I think every Program Manager dreads, as the answer can be so complex, but hopefully after reading this article you will be able to answer this question quickly and easily.

Here is the way I like to answer this question, as it’s easy for people to understand: A Program Manager simply manages teams from all different parts of the business to ensure a successful product.

So that answer will keep your friends and family happy if they should ask you what you do, but here is the long winded, more accurate explanation…

According to the PMI: “During a program’s life cycle, projects are initiated and the program manager oversees and provides direction and guidance to the project managers. Program managers coordinate efforts between projects but do not manage them. An essential program management responsibility is the identification, rationalization, monitoring and control of the interdependencies between projects, dealing with escalated issues among the projects that comprise the program, as well as tracking the contribution of each project and the non-project work to the consolidated program benefits.”

Below is a list of the tasks a program manager must perform:

  • Plan the program, ensuring maximum efficiency in resource allocation across projects
  • Monitor its overall progress, resolving issues and initiating corrective action where necessary
  • Define the program governance
  • Manage the program budget
  • Help with the appointment of individuals to the program team
  • Ensure project deliverables are to time, quality, and budget
  • Manage dependencies between projects
  • Manage the program’s risks
  • Constantly monitor for gaps in the program and rectifiy where possible
  • Manage program communication

Let us return to our example from the previous article, to examine one of the points above from the perspective of a Program Manager managing the delivery of our Purple Card credit card program. Let’s look at how “Managing dependencies between projects” might apply to our example program. The management of dependencies between projects is something a program manager must devote a lot of their time to.

Let’s suppose that when Purple Card launches there is to be a television campaign to promote Purple Card. In the advert viewers will be encouraged to call a number to register for Purple Card, or register via the Internet. The telephone number in our example will be put in place by the Customer Care team, and the website and its address will be put in place by the Development team. The Marketing Team thus has dependencies on the Customer Care and Development teams to deliver these details. As television adverts take a long time to prepare, the Marketing Team will need this information well in advance of Purple Card launching. Thus the creation of the contact telephone number and website address are dependencies for the Marketing team which the Program Manager should monitor. When establishing the Customer Care team and Development team projects it may be prudent for the Program Manager to specify up front for these details to be delivered early in each project, to minimise the risk of them being too late to prepare for the scheduled TV campaign.

I hope this article has helped you to understand the role of the Program Manager. Remember, the simple answer to the question, “What exactly does a Program Manager do?” is, “A Program Manager simply manages teams from all different parts of the business to ensure a successful product.”

Cite this article

Minute Tools Content Team, What Does a Program Manager Do?, Minute Tools, May, 2009,
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Denis G.

Originally hailing from Dublin, Denis has always been interested in all things business and started EPM in 2009. Before EPM, Denis held a leadership position at Nokia, owned a sports statistics business, and was a member of the PMI's (Project Management Institute’s) Global Executive Council for two years. Denis now spends his days helping others understand complex business topics.

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