Program managers are responsible for the performance of several projects, their project managers and the human and financial resources the program consumes. They are also accountable for the benefits, the business value, the projects produce. The program manager is focused on allocating resources to the various projects in the program to maximize business value. As well, the program manager must meet the needs and requirements of the stakeholders of those projects. The program manager uses the tools and techniques of project and portfolio management but must also deal with complex interpersonal relationships. The large number of stakeholders affected by the projects in the program impact, and often strain, these interpersonal relationships.
Becoming a program manager is the next step up for experienced senior project managers. Program managers are managing multiple projects with related outcomes that the organization bundles into a program. The program manager usually has project managers as subordinates, each of them managing one of the component projects in a larger program. Many program managers manage several programs at a time. They may even manage all of the projects and programs in an organization. Project Management Careers Main Page
Program Manager: Interpersonal Skills
The program manager must have very strong interpersonal skills because they interact with the organization’s executives. They must persuade and influence the executives in order to maximize the yield on each of the organization’s projects and programs. There are always executive conflicts about project and program priorities and the program manager must be able to address those issues and build consensus for a solution. There are also weekly conflicts about the prioritization of projects as new projects are added to the organization’s portfolio. The program manager needs to build consensus on those priorities so that resources can be allocated based on the organization’s priorities.
Program Manager: Technical Skills
Second, the program manager needs to possess the technical skills to allocate resources across all of the organization’s projects and track the status for each of them. The program manager needs to be able to assemble status data and analyze variances with techniques like earned value management to be able to present executives with accurate and timely status data so they can make decisions.
Program Manager: Subordinate Development Skills
Third, the program manager must be able to teach the subordinate project managers a consistent methodology for doing their projects. This means all projects are managed with the same techniques and tools.
Program Manager: Summary
The highest level of certification in the project management area is the program manager certification. There are some important skill sets that you need to add to your project management toolkit to manage multiple projects, either in a large program or a portfolio. Those skills include software techniques to consolidate all the projects, track resource utilization, and ensure people are working on the right assignments at all times. Even more challenging for program managers is the skilled to deal with a group of executives, manage their expectations and persuade them to follow the best practices in project management. The interpersonal, communication and presentation skills at the program manager level require training and practice.
We offer a Program Manager Certification that teaches all of these skills. It’s a two course online program for experienced project managers that is approximately 120 hours of work with individual coaching from an expert program manager. One course is devoted to program management and methodology skills. The other course focuses on interpersonal, professional communication and presentation skills. You give live online presentations to your instructor and practice persuading and influencing executives. You help them reach agreement on issues like program priorities and resource allocations.