Portfolios, Programs and Project Management Interactions

Portfolio-Program-Project Management Interactions
Figure 1. Portfolio-Program-Project Management Interactions

When it comes to Project Management, it’s imperative that you cognizant about these terms. The relationship among Portfolio, Program and Project is such that, a Portfolio is a collection of sub portfolio, programs and projects.  Programs are part of portfolio, these comprise of sub programs, projects and other activities that are managed in coordinated fashion.   Individual projects or other activities are still called a part of entire portfolio.

Different activities takes place at different level

  • Portfolio
    • Strategies and Priorities
    • Progressive elaboration
    • Governance
    • Disposition on requested changes
    • Impact analysis of changes in other portfolios, programs or projects.
  • Subportfolio/Programs/Projects
    • Performance Report
    • Change requests and its impact on portfolio, programs or projects.

Figure 1 illustrates, Portfolio, Program and project management are aligned with or driven by organizational strategies.

To understand these disciplines better it is imperative to distinguish the similarity and differences amongst these disciplines. Portfolio, program and projects are intended to contribute towards achievement of strategic organizational goals.

Portfolio management align with organization strategy by selecting appropriate programs and/or projects, whereas, Program Management control interdependencies amongst the projects and other program related activities.   Project Management ensures that all objectives are achieved such that portfolio and programs objectives are met.

Organizational Project Management
Project Programs Portfolios
 Scope  Projects have defined objectives.  Scope is progressively elaborated throughout the project life cycle  Programs have a larger scope and provide more significant benefits.  Portfolios have an organizational scope that changes with the strategic objectives of the organization.
 Change  Project managers expect change and implement process to keep change managed and controlled.  Program managers expect change from both inside and outside the program and are prepared to manage it.  Portfolio managers continuously monitor changes in the border internal and external environment.
 Planning  Project managers progressively elaborate high level information into detailed plans throughout the project life cycle.  Program managers develop the overall program plan and create high level plans to guide detailed planning at the component level.  Portfolio managers create and maintain necessary processes and communication relative to the aggregate portfolio
 Management  Project managers manage the project team to meet the project objectives.  Program managers manage the program staff and the project managers; they provide vision and overall leadership.  Portfolio managers may manage or coordinate portfolio management staff or program and project staff that may have reporting responsibilities into the aggregate portfolio.
 Success  Success is measured by product and project quality, timeliness, budget compliance and degree of customer satisfaction.  Success is measured by the degree to which the program satisfies the needs and benefits for which it was undertaken.  Success is measured in the terms of the aggregate investment performance and benefit realization of the portfolio.
 Monitoring  Project managers monitor and control the work of producing the products, services or results that the project was undertaken to produce.  Program managers monitor the progress of program components to ensure the overall goals, schedules, budget, and benefits of the program will be met.  Portfolio managers monitor strategic changes and aggregate resource allocation, performance results and risk of the portfolio.

 Table 1 – Comparative overview of Project, Program and Portfolio management

Table 1 – shows the comparison of project, program and portfolio views across several dimensions within the organization


What is a Project?

PMBOK says

“A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”

hhmmm… lets try to simplify this by breaking it down.

There two very important words in the above statement you should understand.

temporary – it means, to qualify to be called a project it must have defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.

Temporary does not mean the duration of a project is short.  It means that project would start at a specified date and it is going to end at a particular time in the future.   There are various ways project ends.  A project ends when project’s objectives have been achieved or it could happen that project has been terminated because end objectives will not or cannot be met.

One point to remember that Temporary does not applies to the product, services or result created by a project;  these are supposed to last longer.

unique – operation has to be unique in nature to termed it as a project.   A project has to be a set of non routine operation designed to accomplished a singular goal.  Outcome of the project may be tangible or intangible.   Even though activities or elements in the process are repetitive in nature, this repetition does not change the fundamental, unit characteristics of the project work.

so with this a simplified definition of a project is

“A unique set of activity(ies) which can be accomplished withing a specified time-frame.”

Example of projects include, but not limited to:

  • Developing a new product, service or result.
  • Improving, implementing any existing process, style or structure of an organization
  • Developing or acquiring software/hardware system
  • Any research activities
  • Any construction activities