Change Manager vs. Project Manager: What’s the Difference?

Management is one of the significant factors for the progress of any organization. It focuses on planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the organization’s resources to achieve its goals. Managing projects and change are two different aspects. Though project and change managers work together, they differ in their focus and responsibilities.

A project manager’s primary responsibility is to ensure that a project is completed on time, within budget, and to the customer’s specifications. On the other hand, change managers ensure that changes are made smoothly and without disrupting the other tasks. Identifying the differences in their roles is often confusing for those who are new to the field of management.

This blog post will share a comprehensive comparison of a change manager and project manager. So, if you are not familiar with these two management roles, read on.

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What Does a Change Manager Do?

Organizational change has become the new normal. Businesses are now required to adapt to the ever-changing market landscape, and customer demands continuously. Change management is a structured approach to help organizations deal with various changes, like technological, cultural, or structural changes.

Change Manager ResponsibilitiesThe role of a change manager is to help an organization transition from its current state to its desired future state. They do this by leading and coordinating change initiatives within the organization. Change managers play a significant role in organizational transformation. They help organizations plan for change, manage the risks associated with change, and ensure the smooth implementation of changes.

Change managers accomplish the following tasks:

  • Defining the roles and responsibilities of people involved in change projects
  • Recognizing the scope, complexities, and goals of changes
  • Monitoring the budget of the change project
  • Build training programs and monitor them to ensure the successful adoption of changes
  • Keeping an eye on the changes in business processes, technologies, and the external environment
  • Assessing the effect of changes on the business
  • Developing change management plans
  • Communicating change management plans to key stakeholders
  • Coordinating and leading change initiatives
  • Monitoring and reporting the progress of change projects
  • Identifying success metrics and measuring them to evaluate the progress of change

What Does a Project Manager Do?

Project management is the process of planning, executing, and monitoring the work of a team to achieve specific organizational goals. A project manager leads a project from start to finish. They are responsible for taking project initiatives and ensuring that the project is completed within a specific duration set by the stakeholders.

Project managers work with teams to effectively manage the entire project. They ensure that all project objectives are met. Project management involves identifying and assessing the project risks that could impact the project and taking necessary steps to mitigate those risks. They create timelines and track the progress.

The project managers perform the following tasks:

  • Planning the project
  • Creating the project schedule
  • Assigning tasks to the team members
  • Monitoring the progress of the project
  • Identifying potential risks and taking initiatives to alleviate them
  • Communicating with stakeholders
  • Reporting on the project’s progress
  • Ensuring the completion of project within budget
  • Employing project management tools and software for efficient project management

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How Do Change Manager and Project Manager Work Together?

The change manager and project manager work side-by-side to bring changes within an organization. When project and change management work together, they create plans to improve the performance of an organization.

Change managers contribute by helping to assess the risks and impact of changes. The project manager ensures that the plans are executed efficiently, while the change management professional monitors the progress of the tasks and makes necessary changes. This team approach helps to proactively pinpoint the obstacles in implementing changes in a project and address them accordingly.

Requirements to Become a Change ManagerIntegrating project management and change management provides adequate information to stakeholders and employees about the changes taking place in an organization. It helps ensure that everyone is on the same page and working together towards a common goal. It, in turn, enables organizations to achieve their desired results. This integrated approach provides helpful feedback to the project team to course-correct when necessary.

For example, if a company is planning to implement a new CRM system, the change manager would develop a change management plan. The project manager would then create a project plan that details how the project management team will implement the CRM system. The project manager would assign tasks to team members and monitor the project’s progress. The change manager would also analyze the progress of the project and make changes as needed. By working together, they can ensure the implementation of the CRM system without any disruption to the company’s operations.

Differences Between Change Manager and Project Manager?

Despite several similarities in the roles of change managers and project managers, they have some differences. Let’s take a look at the key differences between change managers and project managers:


It is one of the major distinguishing factors between change management and project management. Change management focuses on organizational changes. They work with stakeholders to assess the need for change, develop plans to implement changes and monitor the progress of those changes. They contribute to the development of effective strategies to manage resistance to change.

On the other hand, project management focuses on specific projects. They develop plans and schedule the project to achieve strategic objectives. They assign tasks to team members and monitor various tasks. A project manager also identifies risks that could impact the project and implement strategies to mitigate them.


Another key difference between change managers and project managers is the scope of their work. Change managers work on organizational changes that impact multiple departments or teams. They create strategic plans to execute changes and ensure effective implementation of those changes. They also work with stakeholders and employees to manage resistance to change.

Project managers, on the other hand, work on particular projects. The scope of their work is limited to the project they are working on. Once they complete the project, they move on to the next one.

Required Skills

Change managers and project managers have some common skills, like leadership, problem-solving, and communication. These skills enable them to manage changes and projects effectively. Besides these skills, they also required some unique skills.

7 R's of change managementChange managers need to have a deep understanding of organizational dynamics. They should know how to assess the need for change and develop plans to implement those changes. They should also be able to manage resistance to change. Conflict resolution skills are necessary for change management processes. They are specialized in managing people to handle the emotional aspects of change effectively.

Project managers need to have excellent planning and scheduling skills. They should be able to develop plans that detail the steps necessary to complete the required tasks on time and within budget. They should also be able to assign tasks to team members and monitor the project’s progress. Project managers play a vital role in monitoring the progress of the project and taking corrective action when necessary. They are adept in technical skills and have experience in the domain they are managing the project.

Scaling Factor

The scaling factor is a significant factor in the progress of any task. It is a distinguishing factor among change management and project management. Change management involves dealing with fluctuating circumstances. The scaling factors for change management include the extent of change, the pace of change, and the number of people affected by the change.

Project management involves working with tangible deliverables. The scaling factors for project management include the size of the project, complexity, and duration of the project. They also have to focus on the technical complexity of various tasks.


Certifications are not required for either change managers or project managers. However, having a certificate can give you an edge over the competition. There are several certifications available for change managers and project managers.

Certifications available for change managers include:

  • Change Management Foundation Certificate
  • Change Management Practitioner
  • Change Management Specialist (CMS)
  • APGM Organizational Change Management Foundation
  • Change Management Specialist (CMS)
  • Prosci Change Management Certification
  • ATD Certification in Change Management
  • ITIL in Action: Mastering Change Management
  • Change Management Institute Certification

Common certifications available for project managers are:

  • BVOP Certified Project Manager
  • Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP)
  • Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
  • Certified Project Director
  • Certified Project Manager (CPM)
  • Master Project Manager (MPM)
  • CompTIA Project+
  • Project Management in IT Security (PMITS)

Phases Involved

Change management and project management involve different processes that enable you to distinguish between the two.

Change management principlesThe change management process includes the following phases:

  • Preparing the organization for change
  • Managing the implementation of change
  • Reinforcing change

The phases included in the project management process are:

  • Initiating the project
  • Planning the project
  • Executing the project
  • Monitoring and controlling the project
  • Closing the project

Tools for Management

The tools used for change management are different from those used for project management. Change management tools help to assess the need for change, develop plans to implement change, and manage resistance to change. Some of the common tools used for change management are:

  • Change readiness assessment
  • The organizational change management plan
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Communication plan
  • Training plan
  • Resistance management tools

Project management tools help initiate the project, plan the project, execute the project, monitor and control the project and close the project. Some of the common tools used for project management are:

  • Project charter
  • Work breakdown structure
  • Gantt chart
  • Budget estimation software
  • Project management software
  • Risk management tools

Average Salary

Usually, change managers make more than project managers as they have to deal with people and their emotions. The average annual salary for a change manager is $103,129. The average base salary for a project manager is $76,850 per year.


Here’s a list of frequently asked questions regarding change and project managers:

What does a change manager do?

A change manager is responsible for leading the business through a change process. They assess the need for change, develop plans to implement those changes, and manage resistance to change. Change management professionals need to have excellent conflict resolution skills and a deep understanding of organizational dynamics.

Change management involves assessing the need for change, developing plans to implement change, managing resistance to change, monitoring the progress of change, and taking corrective action when necessary.

What is higher than a project manager?

A program manager has a higher position than a project manager. A program manager is responsible for managing multiple projects related to each other. They focus on the big picture and ensure that all the projects are on track. They need to have excellent coordination and organizational skills. They analyze project management data and make decisions about how to improve them.

Project managers are responsible for managing a single project. They need to have excellent technical skills and experience in the domain they are managing. They need to be able to create and manage project schedules, track project progress, and resolve issues that arise during the project.


If you are new to Human Resources and are looking to break into a Change Manager’s role, we recommend taking our HR Management Course, where you will learn how to build your skill set in managing change, build your human resources network, craft a great change manager resume, and create a successful job search strategy in the change management field.

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He's a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.