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Portfolio, Program and Project Management: What’s the Difference?

Let us demystify the differences between portfolio, program and project management.

As a member of a project management office (PMO), you’re dealing with projects, programs, and portfolios every day.  The concepts of project management, portfolio management, and program management are clear to you, but may not be to your teams, project managers, and executives.  To help educate the rest of the organization and demystify all these types of “management,” we thought we’d review the differences here in this blog post.  Let’s take a look at the different types from the top down.

Portfolio Management
Portfolio management sits at the top of the management chart. At this macro level, portfolio management encompasses a mix of all the projects and programs that make up a company or organization. These projects and programs are not always related, other than the fact that their overarching goal is to fulfill the strategic goals of the company set forth by leadership. Portfolio management is typically used to help determine the priority of a company’s projects, as well as to identify any resources that are being underutilized, or that could be allocated elsewhere to maximize efficiency. Additionally, portfolio management helps ensure effective communication and coordination between projects and programs.

Program Management
Program management involves the management of interdependent projects. Unlike portfolio management, which manages all the projects in an organization, program management only works with projects which are related or similar to one another. The goal here is to ensure that assets are being used to their utmost potential, enabling the company to perform at maximum efficiency. Program management is important because it reduces conflict between similar projects and improves the overall performance of the organization.

Project Management
Finally, at the micro level, we reach project management. Project management ensure projects reach their goals. Project management follows each project from the planning stage all the way through to its completion. Generally, project management involves the actual execution of work, where carefully allocated resources are ultimately applied to completing tasks. These tasks are typically coordinated by the project management office at a high level.

Working your way from project to program to portfolio management (micro to macro), the scope and goals grow. Effective management across all three levels ensures that projects are completed on time, resources are effectively allocated and, ultimately, the company’s major objectives are met.

It’s great to know the differences between each type of “management,” but that education alone won’t address many of the challenges faced by a PMO every day.  If you’re looking for an application to manage these complex, interconnected pieces, and streamline and automate your PMO processes and reporting, check out CorasManage.  To learn more about Coras, visit our website!

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