What is the difference between Programme Management and Project Management?

difference programme project management

The field of project management is a wide one, with many facets and sectors involved. The development of successful programmes or projects depends on effective coordination between the various groups involved but it doesn't have to be a complicated process.

By recognising the differences between programme management and project management, businesses can ensure that they have the requisite resources and expertise to achieve optimal results and employees can determine whether project or programme management is their area of specialism. 

What is Project Management?

Project managers lead a team to complete all project goals and optimise outputs. Typically, specific constraints and parameters, as well as deliverables, timescales, and budgets, are established at the outset of a project, although flexibility should be maintained so that teams can respond to external or internal variables without unnecessary disruption. 

The nature of a project varies depending on the organisation and industry, but examples include developing new software, launching new products, or streamlining lead generation. With clear objectives and established KPIs (key performance indicators), project managers can delegate tasks to team members to ensure that goals are met. 

Modern project management doesn’t rely solely on a manager’s instinct or experience; instead, established processes and methodologies are applied to the project. Popular project management methodologies include Waterfall, Agile, Lean, Extreme Programming (XP), Six Sigma, and PRINCE2, although others are available. 

What is Programme Management?

Programme management takes a broader approach than project management and focuses on achieving overriding objectives, rather than specific goals. Often, a programme will consist of numerous projects. As each project is completed and deliverables are realised, the programme objective is closer to being achieved. Once every project within the programme has been successfully completed, the programme objective should be met. 

As you can see, there is some overlap between programme and project management but there are distinct differences too. While project management knowledge and experience can certainly help you to become a successful programme manager, the role does require a slightly different approach. 

Programme manager responsibilities often include:

  • Devising and implementing organisational strategies
  • Assessing and forecasting a programme’s commercial impact
  • Identifying requisite projects within a programme
  • Onboarding project managers
  • Facilitating inter-team collaboration and communication
  • Measuring programme ROI

Programme Manager vs Project Manager

Although the terms ‘programme manager’ and ‘project manager’ are sometimes used interchangeably, they are distinct roles and should be recognised as such. Essentially, a programme manager creates overarching strategies that are designed to achieve the organisation’s main aims, such as increasing revenue, boosting sales, or acquiring more customers. Within each programme, a series of projects are initiated, and it is here that project managers come into play. 

Project managers take on the responsibility for a single project and are required to achieve specific deliverables within set parameters, such as a defined budget or deadline. Taking more of a micro approach than a macro-overview, project managers take ownership of particular projects to ensure that key goals are achieved in pursuit of larger programme objectives. 

Key differences between Project and Programme Management

To get a clearer idea of how these two functions vary and interrelate, take a look at some of the key differences between project and programme management:


Projects usually have a specific timeframe and a pre-agreed deadline, whereas programmes are typically longer lasting. As programmes consist of multiple projects, they are long-term initiatives, while projects can be short to medium-term. 


A project should achieve specific deliverables, which are pre-agreed at the outset. In contrast, a programme is concerned with the benefits that can be realised via these project deliverables. For example, a project goal might be to develop a new website, while a programme objective might be to attract more online traffic. 


The success of a project can be measured according to various factors, such as output quality, compliance with established parameters, and time spent. To measure the success of a programme, however, managers will assess whether the programme outcome achieves its objectives. 

Programme Management certifications

Both project and programme management methodologies are widely used across a variety of industries and an increasing number of companies are hiring or training staff in these areas. With in-house programme managers, organisations can implement measurable initiatives to achieve their strategic objectives, which ultimately enhances commercial performance. 

For professionals, this presents a valuable opportunity to specialise in a growing field and develop new skills which can offer enhanced benefits to current and future employers. By enrolling in programme management courses, for example, you can obtain accredited certifications to enhance your career. 

The Provek MSP® Foundation and Practitioner courses present principles, themes, and processes that are used within programme management and provide participants the knowledge and skills they need to implement successful programs. With MSP® Foundation and Practitioner courses available, in addition to exams and certifications, professionals can use their existing project and programme management knowledge to formalise their skills and showcase their abilities. 

Project Management certifications

For existing or aspiring project managers, training, courses, and project management certification can be a highly effective way to achieve career development goals too. When you gain a broad understanding of project management principles via the accredited APM PFQ certification, for example, you can proceed to the APM PMQ and PPQ certifications as you become a highly skilled project management professional. 

Similarly, the accredited AgilePM® Foundation and Practitioner courses empower participants to manage successful projects in accordance with the Agile methodology, while PRINCE2® Foundation and Practitioner (6th Edition) courses are designed for professionals or businesses that wish to further their knowledge and enhance their skills with this approach to project management.

Becoming a Programme and Project Manager

No matter what your skillset is, you can use your talents to deliver successful programmes or projects. With the right training and support, you’ll be able to apply the relevant framework and develop the enhanced skills required to devise, implement, and measure programs or projects.

To learn more or for help selecting the right programme or project management course, contact Provek now on 01635 524610 or email us at enquiries@provek.co.uk

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