Thursday, August 18, 2011

eCommerce Programme or Project Manager? What's the difference?

I’ve been asked the question several times before, so it is good to be able to explain what I believe is actually the difference between and eCommerce project or programme manager

For me the distinct difference between an eCommerce Project and an eCommerce Programme Manager is the basis of what drives their day to day activities. In essence this can be broken down in 6 areas:

Scale
Although the size of the project should not necessarily dictate whether you need to use a programme manager or not, there’s a growing view that when an eCommerce or Multi-Channel project gets to a certain size you move on from needing ‘just’ a project manager. The counter claim is that a project manager should be sufficient to run a single project no matter what the size.
I’m firmly in the latter camp on this one and believe that one eCommerce project should have one project manager… but here’s the important point: when a project is too big for a single person to manage effectively (e.g. a complete green-field project for a multi-national retailer) then it should either be broken up into phases for serial delivery over time or treated as a modular programme of work. For a programme of work, you would then need a programme manager and potentially multiple project managers.

Hierarchy/People Management
Not all programme managers are good people managers and just because someone manages a number of project managers this does not necessarily make them a programme manager.
But once you have both a Programme Manager and a Project Manager working together… then it is an obvious step to have the more junior person report into the senior. I have also seen situations where the Programme Manager has either had matrix or proper line-management responsibility for other members of the delivery team, such as business analysts and the PMO (Programme Management Office/r) or any resource that does not need to be dedicated to a single project for its entire duration. Let’s also not forget that that the practice of eCommerce has been established in many organisations for over a decade now and that you may find a Programme Manager having management of the ‘business as usual’ work-stream as well as delivering new functionality.

Update 19/8/2011: the second part can now be found here .
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