What is a Programme Manager?

Originally posted on the ProjExc Project Excellence Blog on 11-Jul-13

(for the purpose of simplicity in this post, program=programme)

The definition varies quite significantly between industries and even organisations, and to some extent appears to vary depending on understanding of what programmes are.
Looking at recognised programme and project management bodies the definition of a programme is:

A group of related projects and change management activities that together achieve beneficial change for an organisation.” Association for Project Management

The ultimate goal of a Programme is to realise outcomes and benefits of strategic relevance.
UK Government Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

A Programme Manager is generally regarded by those bodies as the individual responsible for delivering the programme benefits to the organisation. With programmes having a longer/ongoing timeframe than projects, there is an impact on the tenure of Programme Manager.

However, looking at numerous job adverts and related key responsibilities, job descriptions, and by talking with individuals in numerous industries it is clear that the job title can be used to describe:

  • the Programme Manager as defined by the recognised bodies (as above), or
  • A senior manager responsible for overseeing numerous projects, with a common strategic link, or
  • A senior manager responsible for overseeing numerous projects, regardless of strategic link, or
  • A senior project(s) manager responsible for delivering numerous projects to their individual objectives, or
  • A senior project manager responsible for delivering a large/important project.

The further down the list, the greater the anecdotal evidence that the job title is used to reward good project managers, to differentiate or provide career path, or to avoid the use of the “director” word because of any implied legal jurisdiction.

So, what is a Programme Manager to you?