What are the Challenges Involved in Becoming a Program Manager?

Managing various successful Programs is a tough balancing act, but we’re proud to say that Volt Consulting Group (VCG) do it well. It’s not without its fair share of challenges though.

In this post we’ll give you an insight into what it’s like to work as a Program Manager (PM) for a Managed Service Program (MSP) provider such as VCG, based on an interview with one of VCG’s very own PMs.


Staying abreast of both organisational and industry developments

In order to manage your team effectively, recruit candidates where required and understand on a broader level the continuously evolving requirements of the client organisation; it’s important to remain knowledgeable about the latest developments within the organisation in terms of structure, new hires and recent departures. 

It is also of vital importance to maintain high levels of market intelligence regarding developments in the industries where the client operates. A Program Manager needs to be an expert in the fields in which they recruit, in order to stay abreast of the emerging and ever-changing technologies and skillsets with which their candidates will need to be proficient.


Being available while ensuring you don’t become too hands on

It’s important that as a PM you delegate to the team. It is very easy as the PM to hold onto activities and try to do everything oneself. Of course, in this role you are essentially an intermediary, and it would be to the detriment of both organisations to fail to effectively delegate. 


Developing relationships while maintaining boundaries

To understand the successes and failures of previous placements, it’s essential to build relationships with key personnel and indeed all hires. What can be difficult is maintaining a degree of professionalism and keeping boundaries to some extent. It can be difficult to remember at times that you do in fact represent a different organisation, a supplier that relies heavily on your work and the contract with the client. 


Learning how to say no

Saying no is something that many people struggle with, and it can place undue pressures on our work days. When you’ve got a lot on your plate, learning to say no while maintaining a helpful attitude can be a seriously important skill. Managing to say no to someone without their feeling like you just can’t be bothered is a balancing act, but done correctly, can be of benefit to both sides: you get to continue focusing on what you’re already doing, and your colleague will invariably find someone who is able to offer more time and attention to the problem at hand.


Avoiding scope creep

When a project lacks proper definition, it is very easy for the project to fall victim to scope creep, where continuous changes and growth in the remit or goals of the project render the original project almost unrecognisable. This can often lead to an overrun in terms of time and budget, and can even be a leading cause of project failure if incorrectly handled. Of course, it is entirely natural for a project to evolve and change during its lifespan, but uncontrolled growth or change is untenable and must be addressed. 


Remembering that recruitment isn't the Program Manager’s only responsibility!

It can be difficult, as a Program Manager, to remember that sourcing and on-boarding new talent isn’t the sole requirement of your role, though at times it may feel that way! It’s important to work closely with an organisation’s recruitment function, if there is one available, to avoid ending up spending inordinate amounts of time on this one aspect of the job. Proper support from other departments is paramount to the success of a Program Manager. 


Maintaining strategic focus

It can be very easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of a project and lose sight of the broader scope – maintaining strategic focus and an awareness of the wider goals of the project is of vital importance. 


Remaining financially aware

When managing a whole project or program, it is not difficult to lose sight of the pennies and pounds, but these add up quickly and before you know it, the cost of the project has doubled and you’ve no idea how. Again, it’s a balancing act - Program Managers need to keep a close eye on the financials of their projects, without getting swamped in counting the pennies. 


Managing relationships and the journeys of your colleagues

It is important, as a Program Manager to understand how working with you can affect others’ successes. Managing relationships and experiences is a core part of the Program Manager role and its importance cannot be understated. 


Maintaining honesty at all times

Sometimes you'll have to impart news that you know the listener won’t want to hear. At these times, transparency and honesty are key, as is a willingness to adapt and work with your colleagues to remedy the problem or issue that’s arisen. 


Becoming a successful Program Manager is certainly a juggling act, but it’s a rewarding one, with the opportunity to be always learning and growing, and to be an asset to both organisations.

Interested in a challenging career like this? Get in touch with Will Dennis to learn more about Volt’s internal vacancies.

Topics: Recruitment