Blog Project Management Difference Between Project, Program, Portfolio and Operational Work

Difference Between Project, Program, Portfolio and Operational Work

PMP certification focus on applying best practices for managing project but no it is not mandatory to apply all the rules and a project manager needs to use his own judgement what to follow in real world.

Difference between Project, Program & Portfolio

As per PMBOK fifth edition project is a temporary endeavour with a start and end date, it provides a unique output.

Reasons for a need a project:

  • Market Demand
  • Customer Requirement
  • Environment or Regulatory conditions
  • Business case to achieve cost efficiency

Sometimes we may need to execute a series of projects; program is a collection of related projects. A program consists of multiple projects, with each project having its own goal. But they have to be managed in such a way that they achieve a program level goal together.

For example an organization wants to spread their business in southern India. The goal is to capture the market completely. In order to execute this program they may execute multiple projects like one project focusing on the requirement of south Indian customers, other focusing on differences in climatic environment of current cities and south, third one focusing on how to compete with existing competitors in the market. This may require managing co-ordination and conflicts among different projects.

Whereas a program is a collection of related projects, a project can exist without any program. There is an upper layer called portfolios. Portfolio is an organizational strategy/thinking to achieve strategic goals.

Goals or go-ahead for a new project comes from portfolio decision. Any organization has limited budget and resources. So depending on the strategic goal, organization has to decide what mixture of projects/program/operational activities gives them maximum benefit and meet their strategic goal. Strategic goal could be profit maximization or could be achieving a market share. In order to achieve bigger market share in a given timeframe, one need to use collection of project, program and or operational activities. Goals of a portfolio are usually Return On Investment or increase in customer satisfaction or getting a bigger market share or diversification. Project funding depends on these goals.

Project and operational work

Project Team takes input from operations for new projects. Project and operations are two separate organizations with completely different area of work and knowledge. To manage any project we need a Project Manager. The PMP certification is all about it, the competencies of a project manager can be grouped in 3 categories knowledge, performance and personal.

Knowledge can be gained by reading books, participating in conferences and seminars related to project management. The knowledge gained is valuable only when it is applied in practical world. A good amount of time of a project manager is spent in resource management. Soft skills and strong communication skills are key characteristics required to manage project team and other stakeholders. Skills like leadership, conflict management, effective listening, and negotiations plays extremely important role for a project manager to perform well in the area of project management.

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