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Friday, March 17, 2017

Project Program and Portfolio Management

Even though the PMI ACP is focused at managing projects the agile way, as a project manager we would still need to know the difference between a Project, Program and a Portfolio to be able to do our jobs better. Most people have a misconception that they are one and the same. Hopefully by the end of this article you would understand that they are not the same. 

In the Series on PMP Exam Prep, I had published an article titled “Relationship between Project, Program and Portfolio” which you should visit to understand more details as I wont be covering the exam same details once again here. Click here

What is Project Management? 

According to the PMBOK – Project Management is the application of Knowledge, Skills, Tools and Techniques to Project Activities to meet the Project Requirements. 

Project management aims to converts the abstract concept or vision the organization has to reality.

Trivia: Remember the Trivia from the Previous Article on Project Life cycle? Even though every project goes through the 5 life cycle stages as per project management standards, the number of steps or phases in an actual industry project need not have the exact same 5 stages/phases. You need to keep this difference in mind when answering Questions. 


The Project Manager is someone who is responsible for multiple things in the project and spends most of his time communicating with the rest of the project team members. The project wouldn't have even a remote chance of success if the Project Manager is unable to build relationships with his superiors, peers, end users, sponsors and every other stakeholder of the Project. 

Some of the common Management and Interpersonal skills a PM needs include: 
  • Leadership – Leadership skills refer to developing a strategic plan and motivating team members to achieve their objectives. Leadership and management skills help project managers to realize successful project completion
  • Motivation – Motivational skills involve energizing people to achieve high levels of performance and overcome barriers to change
  • Problem Management – Problem solving skills involve the combination of problem definition, alternatives identification and analysis, and decision making
  • Conflict Resolution – Conflict management skills refer to conferring with others to enable an agreement to be reached
  • Negotiation – Negotiation skills refer to the implementation of a give-and-take policy whereby parties involved are happy with the outcome of the deal and a win–win situation results
  • Communication Skills – One of the most important skills of a project manager is effective communication. Effective communication involves exchanging proper information to meet the objective of communication and ensure smooth relations with team members. Merely conveying your want is not enough: You need to communicate in such a manner that you get the desired response out of the person with whom you are interacting. Effective communication is, thus, a two-way process.
  • Etc. 

Yes, the PM needs Project Management Skills but he also needs a ton of Soft Skills to be successful. There will be an entire section/set of articles on soft skills so lets not waste too much time here and move on to Program Management. 


According to the PMBOK, a program is a group of projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control that would not have been obtained had the projects been managed separately. 

Program management focuses on project interdependencies and helps to determine the optimal approach for effectively managing them. An example of a program would be a new communications satellite system program, comprising projects for designing the satellite, constructing and integrating the individual systems, and launching the satellite.

In the exam, you may be given an example program and asked to identify possible projects associated with that program. So understand programs and projects and the relationship between them. A project may or may not be part of a program. A program will always have projects.


By portfolio, we refer to a collection of projects or programs that have been grouped together to facilitate effective management to meet strategic business objectives.

Portfolio management refers to the selection process based on the need, profitability, and affordability of the proposed projects. The projects or programs that belong to a portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or directly related. Portfolio management also refers to the centralized management of one or more portfolios, as detailed in the following section.

To understand how these 3 are related, look at the table below: 

Exam Tip: The distinction & relationship between Projects, Programs and Portfolios is provided more from helping you understand the bigger picture rather than from an exam perspective. The ACP exam only tests your ability to manage a small agile project. Program, portfolio related topics will not be in the exam. 

Now that we know the difference between a Project, a Program and a Portfolio, am also going to cover a small topic here. 

The primary function of a project management office (PMO) is to support project managers in the company in a variety of ways. They provide Coaching & Mentoring to the Project Managers and ensure consistency in the project management practices in the organization. In the PMP Exam series, I had written a detailed article about the Role of the PMO. I would suggest you revisit the article to learn more about what the PMO does in an Organization

Prev: Project Life Cycle

Next: Project Stakeholders

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