Product management vs. program management in 2024
April 5, 2024

Product management vs. program management in 2024

by Aha!

Building the right product vs. building the product right. This is how some people describe the basic difference between product and program management. It is on the right track, but oversimplified — the same phrase is often used to explain the difference between product managers and engineers. We get why people want to land on a simple statement that compares the two, though. Product and program managers share responsibilities surrounding planning and delivering new product experiences to customers.

In enterprise organizations that have both disciplines, it is important to understand how these roles overlap and who is responsible for what.

We originally matched up the two disciplines four years ago. The same themes we wrote about then apply now: Product managers create solutions to deliver on the product strategy. Program managers oversee companywide initiatives to help achieve long-term objectives. Both roles require strategic clarity and a deep understanding of how the organization works (or should).

It is a comparison worth revisiting because product development is increasingly cross-functional. Whether you consider your organization product-led or not, more groups are involved in the end-to-end process.

We see this every day when meeting with customers and during Aha! software demos led by members of our Product Success team. It is not uncommon to have representatives from a prospective customer's entire organization join the call: product and program management, design, engineering, customer success, and even marketing. Every group wants to understand how Aha! software will help them build what customers want and bring their product strategy to life.

The better you define how product and program management work together, the faster you can deliver against your roadmap.

Revisit the original post to see how the disciplines stack up. But for a closer look at what has changed and what we see with product and program management in 2024, read on. This is how we see the two functions operating within product development today:

Strategic alignment

Product management sets goals to achieve the product vision and support business objectives. You provide a clear line of sight connecting product strategy to real work on the roadmap, align on priorities with the product team, and communicate strategic progress to stakeholders.

Program management guides multiple projects or initiatives within a program or product portfolio — ensuring individual projects and products align with top-level goals. Coordinating at a high level allows other teams to keep a tight focus on their dedicated areas.


Product management is responsible for decisions related to what to build and when. You are in constant pursuit of insights that will help you deliver more value to customers and the business.

Program management oversees schedules, resources, and finances — helping teams deliver on time and minimizing risk. You aim to connect the dots between teams and projects so everyone understands how their work contributes to overall product performance and company success.

Knowledge sharing

Product management typically manages internal product documentation for individual products. Documents such as product positioning, customer research, and meeting notes should be readily accessible to anyone on the product team.

Program management is responsible for sharing information that helps projects and programs adhere to relevant requirements, all while ensuring that decisions are recorded and transparent. This kind of work can include creating program charters, compliance documents, risk assessments, and program updates for leadership.

Both groups can benefit from a centralized product documentation hub.

Tool use

Product management relies on product development software to handle everything from product strategy to analytics. A dynamic product roadmap is essential — so are tools such as customer ideas portals, wireframes, and self-serve knowledge bases.

Program management uses product development software to gain visibility into progress across the organization. Portfolio roadmaps and Gantt charts with dependencies bring the status of multiple products and related projects into one view — whereas whiteboarding helps with framing large-scale problems and coordinating stakeholder involvement.

Product and program management both play essential roles in any organization delivering value at scale.

We consider ourselves lucky to get to hear so many customer stories about the ways product and program teams work together. There is certainly room to improve collaboration in large enterprises. But the future is bright for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to define how they will work together.

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Aha! is the world's #1 product development software. We help more than 1 million product builders bring their strategy to life. Our suite of tools includes Aha! Roadmaps, Aha! Ideas, Aha! Whiteboards, Aha! Knowledge, and Aha! Develop.

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