Project Manager, Program Manager, Product Manager
By Michael D. Taylor
Titles such as project manager, program manager, and product manager are often used
interchangeably even though there is a definite role distinction between them.
What Is Project Management?
PMI defines project management as “The application of knowledge, skills, tools, and
techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”1 Until the Project
Management Institute initiated “A Guideline to the Project Management Body of
Knowledge” PMBOK in 1996, it was anyone’s guess as to what this meant. Books
written prior to this time had widely varying content with little consistency between
authors. Even today corporate job postings for the position of project manager are
inconsistent. Fortunately, that is changing and we are now seeing a convergence on the
role of the project manager. Project management certificate programs, such as UCSC
Extension’s, are making this happen.
Project managers working in a matrix organization usually have overall project authority
and responsibility, including schedule, cost, and scope. They are generalists, rather than
technical overseers. Their job is to achieve a project goal while working within the
constraints of time, money, product or service features, quality, and risks. In a matrix
organization the project manager has no one reporting to him/her administratively.
1 “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge,” 2000 Edition.
Instead, needed skills are “borrowed” from the functional managers. The project
managers own the work while the functional managers own the resources.
Program managers perform a role which is similar to project managers except it may
extend over a longer