What Are Project, Program, and Portfolio Management?

Note if you are taking the PMP® exam from 26 March 2018 onwards: click here to read the updated PMP® study material based on PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition.

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People often mix and overlap project management, program management, and portfolio management. Here is a quick and schematic look at each, to cast some light on differences and similarities.

Strategies for organization's success in project management

What is Project Management?

Project.  A time-limited activity with a beginning and an end, undertaken to deliver a unique product, service, or result. “Unique” means that it has never been performed by this organization before. Projects do not include ongoing operations, although they do need to consider them up front.

Project Management. The proactive application of professional knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet project requirements.

What is Program Management?

Program. A group of related projects, subprograms, and other ongoing operations – which individual projects do not have – that an organization coordinates to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually.

Program Management. Coordinated management of two or more projects in order to add value by realizing decreased risk, economies of scale and improved management.

In program management, you manage similar projects, while in portfolio management you manage non-similar projects or different programs. 

What is Portfolio Management?

Portfolio. A group of programs, individual projects, and other related operational work that an organization prioritizes and implements to achieve a business result.

Portfolio Management. When an organization groups and manages projects as a portfolio of investments that contribute to the entire enterprise’s success. Portfolio management helps optimize the use of resources, enhances the benefits to the organization, and reduces risk. The program and projects that make up the portfolio may not be related, other than the fact that they are helping to achieve a common strategic goal.

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project management 2018 agile 2018 pmp 2018 tipsographic stefania

Hi, I am Stefania, hearth and keyboard behind Tipsographic, a free online resource for everybody interested in project management and agile. I specialize in project management tips, tools, and tricks. When I'm not writing, you can find me road cycling around Tuscany or spending time with friends and family.

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