Programme Managers or directors play a critical role in an organization, often acting as the conduit between strategy and execution. Speaking in a blog post for AXELOS, The risks of promoting Project Managers to Programme Managers, Lindsay Scott, Director at Arras People, describes them as the “glue” that links what a business is ultimately trying to achieve and the delivery of this strategy via a number of projects.
Yet the role of a Programme Manager can be misunderstood, with some believing they are simply senior Project Managers. So what exactly does a Programme Manager do and what are the skills needed for the role?
Project vs programme
Programme Managers coordinate groups of related projects rather than manage individual projects themselves. Or as JD Meier, Director of Digital Business Transformation, Digital Advisory Services at Microsoft, describes it, they are “a technical leader that orchestrates.”
Programmes, as opposed to projects, may span several business locations and time zones, and undoubtedly involve strategic relationships with a broad range of internal and external stakeholders.
The Programme Manager oversees this programme from its initial set up through to delivery, and they are also responsible for optimizing and demonstrating return on investment.
A different skill set
As Programme Managers have more high level strategic involvement than a Project Manager, they will need a different skillset. As Lindsay Scott states: “Programme Managers need to possess a wide set of ‘soft skills’: they have to be less focused on individual project delivery and be more of a business manager who has real leadership and communication.”
In this leadership role, Programme Managers must engage and influence senior stakeholders, create and communicate a business case and understand how tactical activity supports the wider organizational strategy. Yet it is equally important that Programme Managers manage downwards too; motivating and empowering their colleagues to champion the customer view. “You’re really managing the interdependency between the projects,” says Brian Grafsgaard, Director of Professional Services and senior consultant at Quality Business Solutions. “You have to be able to communicate the overall vision.”
For this reason, employers, former and acting Programme Managers unanimously agree that one of the most important qualities is strong communication skills. By being able to talk up and down the chain, they can influence, coordinate and as JD Meier says, “make things happen.”
To find out more about the role of Programme Manager, visit and sign up to the AXELOS Career Path.
More AXELOS Blogs on capabilities required for additional roles
The ‘technical leader’ of the IT realm: the IT Architect
How to be the driver of excellence: four key skills every Project Office Manager needs
The Incident Manager: five vital skills for success
Could you be a Business Relationship Manager?
AXELOS Professional Development Programme – Service Desk Technician