Portfolio Management, Program and Project Management

Project Management Program Management Portfolio Management infographic

Project Management, Program Management, and Portfolio Management are very important terms in project scope management. Although they sound similar, they refer to different concepts. Many PMP aspirants don’t know the differences between them. Knowing these concepts and understanding their differences is essential to pass the PMP Certification Exam. This article will discuss both concepts to assist PMP aspirants.

What is a Project?

Before to discuss the relationship between project program and portfolio, we will define the term “project”.A project is a temporary and unique operation planned to achieve a singular goal such as building a product or developing a system. A project may be a power plant construction, computer program development, disaster relief effort, etc.

It has a defined start and finish time, scope, resources, duration, goals to create or build a result. Simply put, a project has a temporary nature which comes to an end when it achieves its objective.

For instance, you signed an agreement to build a dam for the government. You completed the construction, tested the equipment and handed over to the client. You closed the project after the handover. After the completion of your project, you demobilize the equipment and employees from the project site because the nature of the project is temporary.

What is a Program?

Program is a batch of related or similar projects managed coordinatedly. Because managing them in a coordinated manner provides more benefits than managing them separately. In other words, programs have several projects that can increase benefits when handled together.

For instance, let’s assume that you have two projects: the first project is a real estate project and the second project is a hospital construction project. Since these two projects are similar in nature, you will keep them under the same program. You are planning to reduce the general expenses by managing them simultaneously. Also, you will request discounts from the suppliers because you will purchase a high amount of materials for both projects.

What is a Portfolio?

Portfolios involve related or nonrelated projects and programs managed together to meet strategic business objectives. Projects and programs that form a portfolio may be or may not be interdependent.

A portfolio may involve several projects and programs. These programs and projects may be related or nonrelated. Business, profit, non-profit, government projects may be kept under the same portfolio.

For instance, let’s assume that you have three projects: the first project is a real estate project, the second project is a software development project and the third project is an expansion of your company’s sales into a new market.

Project Management

Project Management is the process of applying knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet project goals. Therefore it involves initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling & closing processes to complete a project successfully by meeting the project requirements.

Below are a few benefits of successful project management;

  • Improves customer satisfaction
  • Improves the quality of product or project
  • Increases risk assessment
  • Increases flexibility

Program Management

Program management is the process of applying knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet program goals.

The main objective of program management is to meet program requirements by managing the projects as a group. Organizations which are experienced in program management are more successful and efficient and than others.

Program management focuses on managing interrelated or interdependent projects. Managing projects by optimizing resource usage increase productivity within the organization.

Below are a few benefits of Program Management

  • Decreases conflicts among projects.
  • Optimizes resource usage among projects so that resource constraints can be minimized by performing effective program management.
  • Improves communication, coordination, and collaboration among projects
  • Improves organizational efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

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Portfolio Management

Portfolio management focuses on identifying, prioritizing, authorizing, managing, and controlling projects and programs to meet business objectives.

Portfolio management is a business process of managing several related or nonrelated projects and programs. Portfolio management is conducted by a portfolio manager or a team. Project and program categorization and performance monitoring of the categories are interrelated processes in portfolio management.

Portfolios involve projects and programs. The main objective of portfolio management is to identify and prioritize projects and programs to use the resources among projects and programs to improve organizational efficiency.

So, What is the role of a portfolio manager in project management ?

A portfolio manager manages portfolios, aligns programs, projects, operations and prioritizes programs and projects.

Project Management vs Program Management

  • Project management focuses on managing an individual project where program management focuses on managing a group of projects.
  • Similar projects form programs. In other words, programs involve similar projects. However, a program is not a part of a project.

Program Management vs Portfolio Management

  • Program management is the practice of managing similar projects. On the other hand portfolio management is the practice of managing non-similar projects and programs.
  • Projects and programs form portfolios. In other words, portfolios involve similar projects and programs. However, a portfolio is not a part of a project or a program.

project management vs program management vs portfolio management


Project management is a process of managing only one project. On the other hand, program and portfolio management are the processes of managing several projects.
Program management involves managing a group of related projects and portfolio management involves managing similar, non-similar projects or different programs.

Project manager is responsible for managing only one project. Program manager is responsible for managing programs and portfolio manager is responsible for managing portfolios. Project managers, program managers, and portfolio managers responsibilities and success criteria are different.

In this article, we define and provide an example of a project, program, and project portfolio management. We answered, what are the roles of the project, program, and portfolio managers?. Note that you may encounter more than one questions in the PMP Certification Exam.

External References

What is a Portfolio Management ?

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