In Program Management, the Program Manager (PM) is the designated individual with the responsibility for and authority to accomplish program objectives for the development, production, and sustainment to meet the user’s operational needs.
Definition: A Program Manager is the individual responsible for the overall COST, SCHEDULE, and PERFORMANCE of a variety of projects across a program.
Program Manager (PM) Responsibilities
The PM is accountable for the overall cost, schedule, and performance of a program and reporting to the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA). They exercise leadership, decision-making, and oversight throughout a program and a systems life cycle. They need to be the leader of the program, understand requirements, balance constraints, manage contractors, build support (Social Engineering), and put to use the basic skills of management: [1.3]
- Planning: How the program will accomplish its objectives
- Controlling: Setting standards and making sure a program meets those standards
- Organizing & Staffing: Building a team to achieve the program objectives
- Leading: Leading a team to meet a programs vision, objectives & goals
- Communicating: Making sure all project personnel and stakeholders have a clear understanding of the status of the project
- Deliverables: Making sure a program’s deliverables are meeting the objectives of the program in terms of cost, schedule, and performance.
- Managing Documentation: Making sure all documentation is up to date and available.
The PM has the overall authority to develop, manage and execute a program Acquisition Strategy. They also establish and implement a Systems Engineering approach to translate operational needs and capabilities into technically feasible, affordable, and operationally effective and suitable increments. 
The PM must understand the Defense Acquisition System. It’s important that the PM properly navigate each of the three main processes (Acquisition, JCIDS and PPBE) in order to successfully execute their program.
Topics of Understanding for Program Managers (PM)
As a Program Manager on any program, you required to have an understanding of a wide variety of topics to run a lead a program effectively. These topics of and understanding include:
- Acquisition Plan
- Acquisition Program Baseline (APB)
- Acquisition Strategy
- Configuration Management
- Contract Management
- Cost Analysis Requirements Description (CARD)
- Data Management
- Document Program Goals
- Earn Value Management (EVM)
- Financial Management
- Integrated Master Schedule (IMS)
- Life-Cycle Sustainment Plan (LCSP)
- Production, Quality and Manufacturing (PQM)
- Risk Management Process
- Seek Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) Approval
- Software Management
- Stakeholder Management
- Systems Engineering Plan (SEP)
- Technology Development Strategy (TDS)
- Test and Evaluation (T&E)
An Effective Program Manager (PM)
An effective PM should have the “big picture” perspective of the program, including in-depth knowledge of the interrelationships among its elements. An effective PM:
- Is a leader and a manager, not primarily a task “doer”;
- Understands the requirements, environmental factors, organizations, activities, constraints, risks, and motivations impacting the program;
- Knows and is capable of working within the established framework, managerial systems, and processes that provide funding and other decisions for the program to proceed;
- Comprehends and puts to use the basic skills of management-planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling-so people and systems harmonize to produce the desired results;
- Coordinates the work of defense industry contractors, consultants, in-house engineers and logisticians, contracting officers, and others, whether assigned directly to the program office or supporting it through some form of integrated product team or matrix support arrangement;
- Builds support for the program and monitors reactions and perceptions that help or impede progress; and
- Serves both the military needs of the user in the field and the priority and funding constraints imposed by managers in the Pentagon and military service/defense agency headquarters.
Difference Between Program Manager and Project Manager
The roles and responsibilities of a Program Manager and Project Manager are very similar. Both are focused on the cost, schedule, and performance of their work assignment. But the similarities end when where they focus their attention on a program.
There a three main differences between program managers vs. project managers:
- Program Managers oversee a collection of projects where a Project Manager oversees one project.
- Program Managers plan the strategic long-term business objectives of all the projects where the Project Managers id focused on the short-term results.
- Program managers are strategically focused where project managers are tactical focused
Difference between Program Management and Project Management
There has always been confusion on the difference between Program Management and Project Management. The biggest difference is the size and scope between the two. Below is a list of the major differences.
- Program Management: Deals with a group of related programs, on a larger and more diverse scale that are meant to achieve an organization’s strategic goals and business objectives.
- Project Management: Usually involves one project with deliverables that is more focused on achieving an objective and usually has strict start and end date delivery schedules, quality, and cost controls.
|Meaning||A temporary activity that creates a unique product or service||Projects that are linked together that create an overall benefit|
|Time||Short Term||Long Term|
|Concerned||Specific deliervables||The outcome of all deliverables|
|Success||Deliverable meets objectives||All program objectives are meet|
DoD Management Technique that Program Managers (PM) Follow
Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD) is the DoD management technique that simultaneously integrates all essential acquisition activities through the use of Integrated Product Teams (IPT) to optimize design, manufacturing, and supportability processes. IPPD facilitates meeting cost and performance objectives from product concept through production, including field support.
Program Management Office (PMO)
The Program Manager usually works for a Program Management Office (PMO). The (PMO) is the organization or group of people who are in charge of project management within an organization. They maintain the standards and sound business practices that are necessary for a company or organization to execute a project successfully.
AcqLinks and References:
-  DoD Directive 5000.01 “The Defense Acquisition System”
- DoD Instruction 5000.02 “Operation of the Defense Acquisition System”
-  Defense Acquisition Guidebook (DAG) – Chapter 11
- DAU Program Managers Tool Kit (large file)
- A Guide for DoD Program Managers