A program manager can become a company’s key ally to push it forward and meet the desired goals. But what exactly does a program manager do and what skills are desirable for such a position? The Outvise team analyses it.
What does a program manager do
A program manager is in charge of coordinating a set of projects that share a common strategic initiative. This includes, for instance, the launching of a new product.
In order to do this, the program manager will typically perform the following tasks:
- Coordinate projects and teams, making sure everyone works in the same direction and obstacles are overcome.
- Make communication possible between different teams and management. For instance, the program manager will make sure deadlines and expectations for developers and other contributors are reasonable.
- Oversee the program’s budget and how it’s spent.
- Act as a leader or guide the company towards the established goals. The program manager will use his vantage viewpoint to help making strategic decisions.
- Monitor results and correct those operations that are not flowing forward efficiently.
- Document the process and communicate it effectively to stakeholders.
The program manager thus oversees different operations and considers their risks, how goals are met and how resources are applied. From his unique global perspective, he is able to suggest the best ways to successfully accomplish the goals for complex operation within the company.
Thus, as the Project Management Institute claims, the PM “can be thought of as a ‘super’ project manager. His or her role is mainly operational since this person is responsible for planning and governance and for overseeing the successful delivery of the program’s output/product.”
How to find the ideal PM
Program managers are highly sought-after professionals for their capacity to navigate today’s complex business paradigms and provide solutions to a company’s needs.
As part of the gig economy, the most common decision today is to collaborate with a freelance program manager. Through this formula, he provides his consultancy services for a period of time or particular set of projects within the company.
There are a series of skills that the right program manager embodies. Companies which are considering hiring a PM should look for the following:
1. Communication skills. The program manager’s communication skills will be essential, as one of his main roles is to coordinate different teams whose working methods may vary tremendously.
If problems should arise, a prompt and strategic communication can mark the difference between solving them successfully or failing and complicating situations.
2. Intra-personal qualities. Closely linked with communication skills are the candidate’s intra-personal skills. These include:
- Being able to develop empathy with workers and make them feel listened to.
- Demonstrate open-mindedness, especially when problems arise.
- Being aware of his own emotions and thinking processes, so as to keep the project’s goals always in mind.
- Practice the constant ability to learn. The program manager will be in touch with many different teams. He will have to understand what every member of each team needs and why they need it in order to fulfill the company’s goals.
3. Decision-making skills and self-drive. The program manager should have enough authority to be looked upon for guidance. This means that companies should look for people who show initiative and the drive to make decisions at the right time.
4. Having driven many projects across multiple teams or organisations. This, according to the Project Management Institute, is the key factor to find the ideal program manager. In their opinion, the right candidate “must have practical experience of having been a project manager for large and complex initiatives.”
Only this way can a company make sure that his skills have been put to the test and can endure difficulties that may arise during a particular problem. This is also the key reason why most companies rely on High Value Freelancers as the best candidates for their program manager position: they provide a unique perspective after having contributed with many different companies on different projects.
As is the case in many different business areas, the Future of Work is pointing towards the high efficiency of establishing valuable collaborations with industry experts through freelancers.
5. Business experience. While it’s true that this isn’t necessarily the most important factor, a company can benefit from collaborating with a program manager that knows the industry. In this case, the candidate can provide a thorough perspective.