We often see both terms in job postings or org charts. They sounded similar. However, the responsibilities come with these two titles are quite different.
Project manager responsible for the coordination and oversight of a set of tasks completed to produce a product or service. These tasks are defined under specify projects which have clear metrics and goals which determine their success and failure – even if those goals are simply to be completed on time and on budget. The responsibility includes defining a detailed project plan, managing a budget, balancing resources against capacity, measuring output, and generating necessary reports. Project manager sometimes can be quite technical. Depending on the scope and complexity of the project. The role is task driven and detail oriented.
Program managers have a strategic business objective and often not having a specific set of tasks. They often work across departments and will result in organizational collaboration. A program often includes a group of projects that are under the same strategy business objectives. Program managers is responsible to prioritize, align and monitor projects to support company strategic vision. In some cases, program manager also responsible for the profit and loss of the program which impact heavily into the company bottomline. Program managers rely on project managers to help with execution while maintaining the responsibility for coordination and prioritization across the organization to achieve successful delivery of individual projects for the program. While many program managers do not have direct authority over project management or its team members, they should illustrate leadership and influence across the organization. Program Managers do not micromanage but rather coordinate and collaborate with not just project managers but the enterprise toward shared goals. Program manager will provide regular executive report of the program portfolio performance, therefore, he/she has more exposure to executive team. Program manager also requires sophisticated soft skills and broad vision of the overall business in order to fulfill the strategic leadership role in program management.