Managing Vendors – Articles by Jim Everett

Tips on managing vendors, skills and competencies required

Program Vs Project Managers

Posted on | November 25, 2009 | 1 Comment

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What is the difference between being an outsourced program manager and an outsourced project manager, and what is the right expertise to be effective in these roles?
In both cases, subject matter expertise can be an important knowledge base for the manager, on which to overlay the essential management skills.
Where a project or program has been outsourced, there is a different management approach and understanding needed. Even for an experienced manager, the differences between handling an externally resourced (vendor/provider) project or program, and one that is internally resourced (fellow employees), can take some adjustment.
Managing programs requires ongoing steering and maintenance of quality and service, as well as being aware of the ongoing needs of stakeholders. There is a need for analytical abilities, problem-solving and relationship skills, as well as understanding the needs and service experience for any recipients of the service. Program management typically lends itself more to partnering and collaboration, through joint reviews of processes and procedures, and ways to enhance ongoing delivery for quality and efficiency.
Managing projects is more about getting things done on time and according to a set plan, within budget, and meeting specifications. Key skills in project management include understanding project timelines and critical paths, resource management, and financial control, and monitoring events for potential causes of delay and cost overruns.
Different mindsets, different personality types for the two roles.
When the project or program is outsourced, then a separate set of skills and experience is required for the management of an established engagement (meaning that the vendor has been selected and started work). The vendor manager (for either a project or program) must be able to interpret and manage by written agreements rather than day-to day behaviors, and ensure results in what is delivered, not how it is done. This is the hardest shift in mindsets for professionals and experienced managers taking on outsourcing for the first time.
In upcoming posts, I will expand on these roles, and list the common and separate skills and expertise required.

What is the difference between being an outsourced program manager and an outsourced project manager, and what is the right expertise to be effective in these roles? Is there a difference in the type of person or management style that will make a person more suitable for one than the other?

Where a project or program has been outsourced, there is a different management approach and understanding needed than if that project or program was being kept in-house. Even for an experienced manager, the differences between handling an externally resourced (vendor/provider) project or program, and one that is internally resourced (fellow employees), can take some adjustment.

In both cases, subject matter expertise can be an important knowledge base for the manager, on which to overlay the essential management skills. It also puts the manager in a stronger position to provide direction, and ensure standards are met.

Managing programs requires ongoing steering and maintenance of quality and service, as well as being aware of the ongoing needs of stakeholders. There is a need for analytical abilities, problem-solving and relationship skills, as well as understanding the needs and service experience for any recipients of the service. Program management typically lends itself more to partnering and collaboration, through joint reviews of processes and procedures, and ways to enhance ongoing delivery for quality and efficiency.

Managing projects is more about getting things done on time and according to a set plan, within budget, and meeting specifications. A mindset of control is important. Key skills in project management include understanding project timelines and critical paths, resource management, and financial control, and monitoring events for potential causes of delay and cost overruns.

Different mindsets, different personality types for the two roles.

When the project or program is outsourced, then a separate set of skills and experience is required for the management of an established engagement (meaning that the vendor has been selected and started work). The vendor manager (for either a project or program) must be able to interpret and manage by written agreements rather than day-to day behaviors, and ensure results in what is delivered, not how it is done. This is the hardest shift in mindsets for professionals and experienced managers taking on outsourcing for the first time.

In upcoming posts, I will expand on these roles, and list the common and separate skills and expertise required.

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Comments

One Response to “Program Vs Project Managers”

  1. PM Hut
    November 26th, 2009 @ 8:46 am

    I can understand outsourcing Project Management, but not Program Management. Program Management is an executive role, thus the Program Manager (IMO) has to be an executive (and a very important stakeholder) from within the company to oversee the projects.

    PS: I did publish an elaborate article a while ago on the difference between program and project management. The article compares the two from different angles (e.g. organization alignment, outcome, risk management, etc…)

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