Overview of Project, Program, and Portfolio Management

Project Management

With the growing competition and struggle to be the best in the market, no one can afford to make an error when it comes to clients and their needs. But unfortunately, most of the professionals don’t even know what they’re doing wrong, and so the clients start looking for a more trustworthy partner. Without a management to overlook the operations of project, program, and portfolios, it’s challenging to keep up with the expectations of customers, clients, sponsors, or anyone interested in your project. Let’s take a look at why initiatives fail mostly:

What client expect and the end result

Now, as it can be seen, there is a vast difference between what the client demanded and what he got. Some other factors like the client not explaining it correctly, team lead not understanding it correctly, etc. could also lead to this divergence. It could occur because of improper management and miscommunication between client and the team. An in-depth insight on project, program, and portfolio management can not only help you overcome this issue but will allow you to achieve excellence in your particular endeavor.

Project Management

As we’ve already discussed, a project is defined as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. Unlike program and portfolio, project management is a single undertaking; a set of tasks aiming to deliver a specific product, service, or advantage in a particular timeline. It is led by project managers who are responsible for controlling and monitor the quality of the product and seeing if it is worked upon and delivered within the constraints allocated and if it is in-line with the set standards. Individual projects form the foundation of the whole initiative, so it is very critical to pay attention to them.

Here are some of the tips to manage a project successfully:

  • Understand and explain the project scope clearly. It is imperative to know exactly what you’re working on and what is expected of you.

  • Communicate a lot. It will help your team members to comprehend the project clearly and you coming across as an interactive and approachable manager will always be a plus point.

  • Set the objectives keeping in mind the time, cost, and resources available. Deciding an unrealistic target will not only put pressure on the members, but it will also hamper the quality of the product too.

  • Distribute the roles and responsibilities carefully. Get to know your team members and assign tasks that bring the best out of them.

Program Management

According to PMBOK®, program management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to a program in order to meet the program requirements and to obtain benefits and control not available by managing projects individually. It harmonizes its projects and program components and controls interdependencies to realize specified benefits. Program management aims to optimize the use of resources and diminish or minimize the constraints. You may raise the question “after project management, what is the use of program management?” And the answer would be that project and program management has different functions and objectives.

Program management emphasizes on the project interdependencies and helps to decide the optimal approach for managing them. Some of them are listed below:

  • It helps to control the cost.

  • It makes you understand risk in a broader context.

  • It sets strategic and organizational directions that help in objectives of the initiative.

  • When a project is planned, the execution does not go exactly as planned. So, the gaps between strategies and projects are filled in program management.

  • Better utilization of resources by integrating projects.

  • It minimizes resource constraints and conflicts affecting multiple projects in the program.

  • It resolves issues and changes management within a shared governance structure.

Difference between Project and Program Management

Refer the following table for understanding the differences between project and program management:

Area Project Management Program Management
Focus Single objective Business strategy
Scope Narrow Wide-ranging, cross functional
Benefits Determined in advance Used to make decisions
Deliverables Few, clearly defined Many, mostly initially undefined
Timescale Clearly defined Loosely defined
Change To be avoided Regarded as inevitable
Success Factors Time, budget, specification Mission, cash-flow, ROI
Plan Specific, detained, bounded High-level and evolving

Portfolio Management

A portfolio refers to projects, programs, sub-portfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives. Portfolio management aligns with organizational strategies by selecting the right programs or projects, prioritizing the work, and providing the needed resources.

Difference between Project Management and Portfolio Management

Project manager Bob Buttrick explains it as “while project management is about executing projects right, portfolio management is about executing the right projects.” “Directing the individual project correctly will ensure it is done right. Directing all the projects successfully will ensure we are doing the right projects.” he adds.

Portfolio management is the wider and broader concept and project management is a small unit of that. The projects or programs of the portfolio may or may not be interdependent or directly related to each other.

Difference between Program Management and Portfolio Management

In program management, you deal with similar projects, while in portfolio management you deal with different projects or different programs.


The program management scope is broader than the project scope but smaller than portfolio management. The portfolio has an organization-wide scope which alters with the strategic objectives of the organization.


Have a look at the following diagram to understand the difference between the scopes and objectives of the three managements:

Objectives of Three Managements

Project management is the initial level of an initiative where small decisions are made, and the strategy is also not very clear. In the next level, program management, the queries and questions that arose in the projects are answered and the strategy is defined more clearly. Portfolio management is the last level where all the critical decisions are made. From project management to portfolio management, scope and objectives become wider and more extensive. Also, the criteria for success of every level are different. For projects, it is completed on time, within budget and the quality of the product; for programs, it is the extent to which it satisfies the expected objective; and for portfolios, it is the collective performance of its different elements and the output of the whole initiative.

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