Most larger organizations have a program management office (PMO) which deploys program and project managers to projects throughout the organization. In many cases, people use the terms program and project management interchangeably. This however, is totally incorrect. As usual, here’s one of my drawings to illustrate:
The clear difference is that there is a single PMO operating across an organization’s projects. They, program managers, maintain a single line of sight to all projects and ensure compliance of each project to the company’s overall strategy. They also deploy resources to each project to do this.
The PMO is also looking for linkages cross-functionally. So if you’re implementing new payroll and expense systems simultaneously, they’ll look for commonalities and integration points that the project managers won’t necessarily see from the project plan level.
In contrast, the project managers manage down to each individual project plan. They are singularly focused on executing and ensuring the successful implementation of each project. However, they do report project status and risks up to the program managers.
Program managers manage upward – to the strategy of the organization. Project managers manage downward – the execution of the project plan. The two practices intersect at the project level, each with different points of view, but managing each other to get the best overall outcome for the organization, a successful implementation that is compliant with company strategy.