The day-to-day activities of a ‘Program Manager’ may vary from organization to organization. But we will try to generalize as much as possible, while, at the same time, keeping it as simple and short as possible.
A Program Manager typically handles multiple accounts (customers). Each of these accounts will come with it’s own set of challenges – in other words, problems. And each of these accounts will be in different states of ‘stability’. As a Program Manager, you will not only have to focus your attention on the ‘unstable’ accounts but also on the perceived ‘stable’ accounts as well. Your biggest challenge will be to keep the stable accounts in stable condition, and ‘stabilize’ those accounts that are not.
What does a Program Manager do in a typical day?
A Program Manager –
1. Reviews each of the accounts assigned to him/her. Reviews the status of each of the issues reported by the customer and checks if all of them have been properly responded to.
2. Checks if all issues reported by each of the customers have been handled to as per SLA levels agreed to with the customer. In case there is a deviation from agreed SLA parameters, the Program Manager should dig deeper to find out the exact reason for the miss and initiate immediate steps to correct it.
3. Monitors each of the accounts assigned to him/her for any delay(s) which might negatively impact them. If there is a risk, the Program Manager calls is out to the respective stakeholders (which is usually the senior management in the organization.)
4. Works with multiple internal teams (& wherever necessary, external teams, as well) and makes sure the customer’s issues are addressed within agreed timelines.
5. Monitors each of the accounts and makes sure that all relevant documents are properly updated with the most recent information. Out-dated documents are no good and will not help in times of a crisis. Hence, it is good to have all documents properly updated so that no time is wasted during any emergency.
6. Has regular meetings with the customer reps of the accounts he/she is handling so that there is a smooth, two-way flow of information. In case there is a risk of any of the deadlines being met, the Program Manager should inform the customer well in advance, so that it does not come as a last-minute nasty surprise to the customer. It is important for the Program Manager to be able to gain the trust of his/her customers so that they realize that you would do only what is best for them, under any circumstances.
7. Has regular meetings with internal teams to get a first-hand picture of the status of each of his/her accounts as well as to understand any challenges faced by the internal teams and help mitigate them.
8. Many times, there might be expectations from internal teams that the Program Manager should ‘push back’ customer expectations all the time. This is a wrong expectation and should never be entertained, except in case of genuinely unexpected situations where we are not able to deliver to the customer as promised. In such situations, the Program Manager should not hesitate to escalate to higher levels so that adequate measures are taken to ensure customer deliveries are met as scheduled.
9. Might have to draw up mitigation plans for those accounts that are highly ‘unstable’. This has to be done in discussion with the respective teams who will be responsible to resolve the issues raised by the customer. But once the plan is drawn, reviewed & approved by both the internal management & the customer, it is the Program Manager’s responsibility to ensure that the plan is properly followed and taken to it’s logical conclusion. If there is, or if there is even a possibility of any deviation, it should be called out to the respective stakeholders (& customers, if necessary) at the earliest so that appropriate corrective measures are initiated.
10. Monitors resourcing levels on each of the accounts assigned to him/her. If there is a challenge – as in, if there is a skill or will issue or anything else, for that matter, initiates appropriate measures to rectify the situation.
11. Monitors queries raised by customers by email or phone or by any other means and makes sure they are responded to at the earliest.
A Program Manager effectively acts as a ‘bridge’ between the customer and internal (& external teams, wherever necessary) teams and makes sure that the customer’s business is not impacted in anyway, while at the same time, taking into consideration challenges within the organization. The idea is to strike a healthy balance between customer expectations and internal expectations. Easier said, than done!