• Development Manager
  • Program Manager
  • Project Manager

I have read a bit and independently I understand them well enough. However when you combine them, it seems to me that some responsibilities overlap and it becomes uncertain who is responsible for what.

Does anyone have a clear way of defining how each role differentiate from the other? Or mainly which tasks are exclusive to each one? I want to avoid overlapping of responsibilities.

I know there are other similar questions on the matter, but none exactly the same...



This 2 questions help a little, but still can't quite place each role when pushed together:

What is the difference between a Program Manager and a Project Manager?

The Written Roles of Software Development Manager

  • If you list all of the responsibilities that you think are part of these roles...
    – Oded
    Sep 9 '11 at 20:19
  • Done that, from different sources. Like I said they overlap. I am curious as to when you pin them together, which one should do what, as to not overlap responsabilities... Or some clear cut differences.
    – AJC
    Sep 9 '11 at 20:23
  • Program or programming manager? In my organization these are very different roles. For example we may have programming managers (Senior Developers/Project Leads) but we also have ITSM Program Manager along with other "Program" managers not related to programming.
    – Chris
    Sep 9 '11 at 20:47
  • Depends on the organization. In some organizations they are three separate excuses to carry around an upper managers useless poker buddies as dead weight with bloated salaries while tech leads do all the program management, project management and domain expert goto guys.
    – maple_shaft
    Sep 10 '11 at 2:51
  • Developer Manager, its called also "Technical Project Manager" is some companies.
    – umlcat
    Sep 10 '11 at 16:42

A Programme Manager manages a number of projects (or portfolio), each run by project managers, that help to achieve a common goal. From wikipedia:

Program management or programme management is the process of managing several related projects, often with the intention of improving an organization's performance. In practice and in its aims it is often closely related to systems engineering and industrial engineering.

A Project Manager manages an individual project, which might be within a wider programme. Their aim is to deliver the project they've been tasked with to the required quality, budget and timescale.

The project manager is focussed on delivering their individual project, where the programme manager understands the interdependencies between projects and may need to make decisions and assign priorities between projects when they come into competition or are competing for a scarce resource.

A development manager is often sat to the side of this, managing a pool of developers from a career progression point of view. They assign developers to individual projects in response to requests from Project Managers. The development manager is typically responsible for things like training (except where required for a specific project need), appraisals etc. You might have the same development manager for several years, over which time you are assigned to multiple projects (potentially over several programmes) with different project / programme managers.

Alternatively on a big project, there might be an overall project manager, then separate project managers with a focus on different workstreams e.g. Development Manager, Test Manager etc. They manage their focus area within the wider project.

That's the way it works in 'Enterprise IT' anyway.

  • Apart from the development manager part, I don't really agree with this answer, but I'll concede different companies may use the term differently. A project manager typically deals primarily in schedules, deadlines and resource allocations, and the vision and feature set of the actual product comes from a product manager. A 'program manager' might be some kind of senior product manager that keeps several products aligned. A development manager (or sometimes a tech director) focuses on the tech behind the product, when the product manager deals with end user level functionality. Sep 10 '11 at 7:41
  • I've added some extra to Programme and Project managers to expand my answer. These definitions are very similar to those in the British Computer Society 'breadth of knowledge' syllabus (bcs.org/upload/pdf/citp-bok-syllabus.pdf)
    – Kris C
    Sep 10 '11 at 8:18
  • Also, as you say, product manager is another discipline entirely, focussing on customer needs, roadmap for new features, marketing etc
    – Kris C
    Sep 10 '11 at 8:26

Project manager

A project manager is responsible of a project. His objective is that the project team works effectively and efficiently together and delivers the expected project results the work gets done.

But this high level definition might cover very different realities, depending on corporate culture, methodology and individual project particularities. For example:

  • according to PMI, the PM is in general someone from the performing organization (i.e. IT or subcontractor) and has a very strong leadership role.
  • according to PRINCE2, the PM should in general be from the "business" (e.g. customer), and should manage the project in close cooperation with team leads (and especially the team lead from the performing organizations such as IT or subcontractor).
  • between these settings there are a lot of variants, being understood that in smaller projects, the PM very often cumulates several roles (e.g. PM and architect, or PM and lead developer).

Program manager

A program is something much larger and much longer than a project. Programs are usually performed to reach some long-term strategic objectives, or to launch a new product family.

The formal definition depends again on the methodology:

  • PMI sees a program as a set of "projects that conducted under the umbrella of a program would allow advantages that could not be achieved by running them independently". Typical example is because the projects are highly interdependent and need cross project coordination by a program manager.
  • MSP (the Prince2 equivalent for programs, also initiated by UK gov) state that a program is defined by the need to achieve some long term objectives.

Both agrees that a program is composed of several projects, and may also encompass some related non-project activities.

The project managers report to the program manager. But the detailed duties of a program manager depend again on the context. It may or may not imply product ownership. He most often directs the project managers; but there are settings where a program manager has only a coordination role.

Development manager

From the three terms, this is certainly the less formalized.

I understand this term as the manager in charge of the development process and the developers inside and organization, and across all the projects in which his developers may be engaged.

But for large programs, it could be a horizontal role managing the development resources of a large program.

I could imagine that in some context this term to designate a team lead / chief developer /senior software engineer in charge of the software development deliverables of a project, in order to acknowledge their importance. But personally, I never encountered the term in this context.


In an organization where I used to work (over a decade ago) the development manager was in charge of developing the whole IT function (both hardware and software). The programming manager was in charge of all programming functions (software only). A project manager was in charge of individual projects, usually related to programming, occasionally to hardware.

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