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Project Management vs. Program Management vs. Portfolio Management


What’s the difference?

The terms project management, program management, and portfolio management may seem similar but have very distinct meanings when discussed within the context of Work and Resource Management (WRM).

What is project management?

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a project is a “temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” A project is designed to achieve a specific objective and has a defined beginning and end.

Project management is the discipline of using principles and procedures to manage a project from conception through to delivery of an outcome, such as an application, event, product or service. This can include:

  • Definition of project goals
  • Intake and management of requirements
  • Breakdown and scheduling of tasks
  • Budget and cost management
  • Assignment and management of project resources
  • Communication of project status against milestones

The person responsible for managing a project is typically called a project manager. The responsibilities of a project manager may include:

  • Project scoping, scheduling, and approvals
  • Ressourcenmanagement
  • Budget management
  • Risk management
  • Status reporting to team members and stakeholders

In more mature organizations, project managers work in or with a group or department called a Project Management Office (PMO). The PMO defines and sets standards for how projects are managed within the organization.

According to the annual Project and Portfolio Management Landscape survey, almost half of PMOs are responsible for both maintaining operational work and driving strategic projects for business value.

The Primary Goal of the PMO

What is program management?

According to the PMI, a program is “a group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.” Programs often:

  • Have strategic business objectives that are transformational in nature
  • Cross departments or business units

Program management is the translation of strategic objectives into measurable business outcomes, coupled with the integration of the many related initiatives required for the outcome to be realized.

The person responsible for managing a program is often called a program manager. The role of program manager varies depending on the organization. Some organizations emphasize the business aspects of the role. Others focus on an IT or technology and will highlight specific technical and project management qualifications. Program managers lead the end-to-end charge of the cross-functional program, from shaping the approach to delivery of the set of desired outcomes. The program manager also has responsibility for:

  • Prioritizing and funding initiatives
  • Defining a cross-organizational roadmap
  • Ensuring resource capacity and availability
  • Managing interdependencies between projects
  • Ensuring that program-level goals are achieved

Program managers often report into an Enterprise PMO or Strategic Planning Office and have responsibility for managing strategic initiatives that span departments and business units.

Learn more about how program managers help operationalize strategic plans. Read Program Management: The Key to Strategic Execution

What is project portfolio management?

A project portfolio is the group of projects being worked on by an organization.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM)) is typically a function of the PMO team and is a formal approach to orchestrate, prioritize, and analyze the potential value from a set of projects. An organization that employs project portfolio management centralizes the identification, prioritization, authorization, and management of projects within a portfolio.

A portfolio manager is responsible for managing and leveraging the life cycle of investments, initiatives, programs, projects, and outcomes to optimally achieve enterprise goals and objectives.

Inter-relationship of Portfolio Management, Program Management, and Project Management to Drive Strategic Objectives
Inter-relationship of Portfolio Management, Program Management, and Project Management to Drive Strategic Objectives

What is project portfolio management software?

Most PMO teams employ software designed to automate many of the functions required to successfully manage projects and project portfolios.

Just as there is a difference between the scopes of project management, program management, and portfolio management, there is also a difference between project management software and project portfolio management software.

Project management software, such as Microsoft Project, facilitates common project management functions such as the creation of a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Gantt charts.

Project portfolio management software delivers the functionality found in project management software combined with additional capabilities required to manage project portfolios. For example, Planview’s project portfolio management solutions deliver capabilities required to manage work and resources across the portfolio such as:

  • Centralization of projects
  • Project alignment and prioritization
  • Real-time analytics to measure and manage projects and resources
  • Resource management and capacity planning
  • Time tracking
  • Project financial management
  • Intake and demand management
  • Integrated Gantt charts
  • Visibility into all types of work – agile, collaborative, iterative, project
  • Predictive portfolio analysis
  • Investment planning and portfolio/program level financial management
  • Strategic planning
  • Roadmap-Erstellung
  • Program management
  • What-if scenario planning

Should your PMO team move from project management to project portfolio management software?

According to the results of the annual Project and Portfolio Management Landscape survey:

  • 73% of organizations report that they don’t have enough resources to meet incoming demand
  • 55% of organizations report their projects and resources are not well aligned with business goals
  • 49% have seen a project fail in the past 12 months

These challenges can be addressed by using project portfolio management software.

If your organization never seems to have enough resources to meet incoming demand, PPM software will help your PMO balance, prioritize, and schedule resource capacity and provide a real-time view into both future and in-flight work across project teams, departments, geographies, and the enterprise.

If your organization’s projects are not aligned with business goals, PPM software will help your PMO centralize demand intake and optimize the project portfolio to deliver on strategic initiatives.

If a large percentage of your organization’s projects fail, PPM software will give your PMO team a unified top-down view of all work and resources so they can proactively manage and project changes and risks.

PMO teams have always been in a position to provide value. But staying relevant means changing with the times and adapting to changes in technology, management demands, and business needs. Arming your PMO team with the right tools empowers them to drive both the strategic and day-to-day programs that advance the corporate strategy.

Summary

Within the context of Work and Resource Management (WRM), there is a distinct difference between project management, program management, and portfolio management. Each is managed by people with different roles and responsibilities and each requires different levels of functionality from the software used to facilitate management.

Project portfolio management (PPM) software provides an opportunity for organizations to improve PMO performance, make better decisions, and operationalize business strategy by centralizing demand management, prioritizing work, and improving visibility into the portfolio of projects.

Weitere Ressourcen

Meet our author

Angie Sarmiento

Solutions Marketing Manager

Angie helps to drive go-to-market strategy for Planview’s Work and Resource Management solutions, focused on the Portfolio and Resource Management solution and product marketing for Planview® PPM Pro. Angie is responsible for positioning, sales enablement, market intelligence, competitive analysis, and supporting customer advocacy. She enjoys using her expertise to develop and bring together messaging and programs that showcase the value and benefits of Planview’s offerings. Angie is also closely involved with the Planview Horizons Customer Conference. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

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