Program Management or Project Management? What’s the Difference?
For real estate owners and investors, the term “program” management may be confusing, especially when it’s compared with “project” management. Here is how we understand and use the two terms when working with clients.
The Big Picture
Project management entails planning and coordinating the scope, time, money and other elements of a single project, whether it’s simple or more complicated.
Program management comes into play when addressing several related goals regarding more than one project. These types of projects tend to be large or long. They may span multiple locations or have many inter-related phases. A program is more than a collection of projects for one client; it demands alignment of approaches and resources to achieve a result that is greater than a sum of the parts.
One example of program management is our recent work with a client who purchases and renovates manufactured housing parks across the United States. Having us as a singular program manager overseeing the improvement projects at multiple properties with different property and project managers streamlines sharing of knowledge and best practices. This approach also leverages consulting and construction expertise, provides expected quality of outcomes, and enables consistency of communications and reporting of progress.
In another instance, we might serve as program manager for a client who owns several parking garages in need of repair, all within close proximity of each other.
Shutting down one garage for renovations without regard for the other garages would cause extra hardship for the people who park there and greater revenue losses than necessary. An uncoordinated approach may also overwhelm one contractor hired to make repairs to the structures. And if work was to be done on several sites at once, multiple contractors might need to be hired.
Instead, taking a coordinated, phased approach that temporarily closes just one garage at a time means commuters will be happier. That single best contractor might then also be able to handle all of the jobs by working on just one garage at a time. Furthermore, offering one contractor this larger volume of work translates into economies of scale and cost savings for the owner. Not to mention, a programmatic approach makes time spent overseeing the contractor(s) to meet the owners’ expectations more efficient, because learning and processing are shared across the projects.
What to Expect From a Program Manager
A good program manager knows how to balance logistics and leverage resources among related projects. Program management could help the property owner or investor by:
- Understanding the nuances and sharing best practices across locations and conditions.
- Making effective use of limited resources such as labor, materials, equipment or funding.
- Directing contributors how best to prioritize their work.
- Working with different project managers to stay on top of jobs.
- Providing consistent communications and reporting.
If you are planning a set of related projects that might benefit from a program management approach, we’d be happy to discuss how we could help. For more information on the services we offer clients, browse some of our other articles — or give us a call at 888.357.7342.