7 program staffing factors

How many full-time equivalents (FTEs) are needed for Commercial Card program management? While this sounds a tad like a “light bulb joke,” it is an important question. A common measurement reported in industry studies is program manager/program administrator (PM/PA) FTEs per number of cardholders. This is just one small part and an industry average does not necessarily represent what is ideal for your organization. To evaluate whether your card program is appropriately staffed, consider the following seven variables. You might find that the issue is not a lack of staffing, but rather gaps or hurdles elsewhere within the program.

Factors to Evaluate

Any of these can change or evolve over time:

  1. Program goals: What purchases and suppliers are targeted? What is the actual or expected transaction volume? 
  2. Geographic locations: Are cardholders local only? Is the program operational in one country or more than one?
  3. Cardholder status: Besides the number of cardholders, it is worthwhile to consider their skills and turnover.
  4. Training: Do you conduct live training (in-person or virtual), or provide recorded training?
  5. Technology: What tasks are accomplished manually versus tasks supported or executed with technology?
  6. PM/PA aptitude: Is the right person or people managing the program?
  7. Special projects: What is happening that affects those who have a program management role?

What Could Require More FTEs

  • A wide range of targeted purchases and/or suppliers
  • High transaction volume
  • A geographically dispersed program, especially one spanning more than one country
  • Cardholders who do not grasp (or read) procedures, thereby needing more ongoing help 
  • A notable number of new cardholders each month
  • Live training for every new cardholder and/or manager
  • A high number of manual tasks (e.g., transaction auditing)
  • A PM/PA who is not well suited for the role, so others have to pick up the slack
  • Projects demanding extra time, such as a request for proposal (RFP) for a card issuer or technology provider, switching issuers, or implementing new technology (e.g., an auditing solution, different ERP system, etc.)

Some of these bullet points are naturally positive things, like a program that allows all sorts of purchases. Some are neutral and depend on other factors to make them positive or negative (e.g., live training might be fine until it becomes too time consuming due to a high number of new cardholders). Some are simply a drain on time (e.g., manual tasks). Nevertheless, the more that apply to your program, the more FTEs you will need.


In short, your current FTE number is likely appropriate if:

  • your program is meeting or exceeding goals
  • audit results are consistently acceptable
  • the program is well received internally
  • more time is spent on strategic program activities than on operations
  • the PM/PA has a manageable workload (yes, “manageable” is subjective, so it warrants a conversation with management)

Your organization invested time to implement a card program. Doing what is necessary to help it succeed should be a priority. Many factors are within an organization’s control, such as taking advantage of technology to streamline program management. No matter what is lacking in a Commercial Card program, ignoring issues increases the likelihood that your program will not achieve its full potential.

Finding the bullseye in your program management staffing level first requires evaluating many factors.

Finding the bullseye in your program management staffing level first requires evaluating many factors.

Virtual Workshop Opportunity

P-Card and ePayables Payment Strategies, a Three-part Series

Program management FTEs directly tie in with an organization’s overall payment strategy. Attend this virtual workshop to acquire key aspects of building a cohesive payments plan: 1) understanding the options, 2) assessing your card opportunity and devising a plan, and 3) working with suppliers. Learn more...

While this event is targeted at higher education institutions, the content is applicable and suitable for all types of organizations.

About the Author

Blog post author Lynn Larson, CPCP, is the founder of Recharged Education. With more than 15 years of Commercial Card experience, her mission is to make industry education readily accessible to all. Learn more

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