Project Manager vs Program Manager vs Portfolio manager

Projects belong to programs, while programs belong to portfolios. It may appear to be a word problem, and you might not consider it important to distinguish between these common project management roles. However, the distinctions must be understood.  Project, program, and portfolio managers are critical in aligning complicated cross-functional tasks with the overall company’s objectives.

Three Ps of Project Management

To the layman, the term “project management” can relate to any type of management activity, from the simplest of projects to the most complex of implementations. However, there are “Three P’s” of project management, each of which is different from (but related to) the others: projects, programs, and portfolios.

The following is the best way to express the relationship between project, program, and portfolio management:

  • A

    project

    is a short-term effort undertaken by a company or group (such as the creation of a new product, service, or result)

  • A

    program

    is a collection of projects that are similar or related to one another and are frequently handled and coordinated as a group rather than separately.

  • A

    portfolio

    is a collection of distinct programs and/or projects within the same company that may or may not be connected.

In other words, projects are part of larger programs, which are part of portfolios. Though related, project, program, and portfolio management duties are fundamentally different.

Project manager: Roles and tasks

The major aspects of the job of project managers are to balance the scope of work—also known as “deliverables”—to satisfy the project objectives with the resources that are available within the timeline and budget. They must execute all of this while ensuring that the project fulfills the quality requirements set by its customers. Project management is the application of the appropriate tools, strategies, and procedures in a value-added manner to effectively execute a project. As we all know, the corpus of project management knowledge is vast, and a variety of skills, tools, and strategies are available to assist project managers in delivering these endeavors. What matters is that the project managers understand the project, its aims and objectives, and the challenges it encounters, then identify, choose, and apply the appropriate project management tools.

Program Manager: Roles and tasks

A program manager is in charge of ensuring the success of a collection of related projects that support a strategic effort. They provide program-level roadmaps for a group of projects. Ensuring that the whole program supports portfolio and company-wide objectives is an important factor in how this role contributes to business strategy. Program managers monitor the high-level development of each project daily and ensure that everything is coordinated and synchronized. They are actively looking for ways to enhance and streamline work across the program. While program managers typically establish timelines and budgets for the overall program, they do not supervise the day-to-day operational work for individual projects.

Portfolio Manager: Roles and tasks

Portfolio managers are in charge of the success of a group of programs that may or may not be interrelated. In certain circumstances, the portfolio may include all of the company’s projects. Portfolio managers assist executive managers in ensuring that work completed across the organization supports wider business objectives. Portfolio managers are exceptional strategic thinkers. They establish the strategy for the whole program portfolio to guarantee alignment with the broader organizational plan. They create roadmaps that indicate how all programs are moving toward their objectives. Portfolio managers are in charge of optimizing a set of offerings and ensuring the business outcomes necessary to meet organizational objectives. They balance program activity throughout the portfolio, defining the resources and finances required for each program. They also create big-picture schedules to give program and project managers direction and clarity.

Project vs. Program vs. Portfolio Managers

Beyond the difference between project/program management, it is critical to understand who manages each and the specific roles assigned to each. The program manager’s role differs depending on the organization. Some companies emphasize the role’s business aspects. Others will focus on information technology or specialized technology, focusing on specific technical and project management skills. Program managers are in charge of the cross-functional program from start to finish, from developing the strategy to delivering the set of desired outcomes.

The program manager is also in charge of Initiative prioritization and budgeting, creating a plan for cross-organizational collaboration, assuring the capability and availability of resources, managing interdependencies between projects, and assuring that program-level objectives are met. Program managers are responsible for overseeing strategic projects that span departments and business divisions and report to an Enterprise PMO, Strategic Planning Office, or line of business.

A project manager’s responsibilities may include Project scoping, scheduling, and approvals; Management of resources and risks, and budget administration. Team members and stakeholders are kept up to date on the status of the project. A portfolio manager is in charge of managing and using the life cycle of investments, initiatives, programs, projects, and outcomes to meet company goals and objectives as efficiently as possible. Portfolio managers are responsible for optimizing their project portfolios, balancing capacity versus demand, and connecting strategies and resources to project execution.

How they All Work Together

In certain businesses, project managers, program managers, and portfolio managers work in or with a Project Management Office, which is a group or department that coordinates the work of project managers, program managers, and portfolio managers. The project management office (PMO) creates and establishes guidelines for how projects are managed inside the company. To be effective, project managers, program managers, and portfolio managers within an organization must all understand the responsibilities that each other plays in determining a strategic goal’s successful execution. Without this knowledge, there might be unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding, which could sink a project before it gets started. Projects are subsets of programs, while programs are subsets of portfolios. Each is unique, yet they work best when managed as a group.

A consistent organizational management structure addressing all three domains is required for the integrated program, portfolio, and project management. While integration is essential, the management of various areas should remain independent and complementary at the same time.

Project Manager vs Program Manager vs Portfolio manager

Projects belong to programs, while programs belong to portfolios. It may appear to be a word problem, and you might not consider it important to distinguish between these common project management roles. However, the distinctions must be understood.  Project, program, and portfolio managers are critical in aligning complicated cross-functional tasks with the overall company’s objectives.

Three Ps of Project Management

To the layman, the term “project management” can relate to any type of management activity, from the simplest of projects to the most complex of implementations. However, there are “Three P’s” of project management, each of which is different from (but related to) the others: projects, programs, and portfolios.

The following is the best way to express the relationship between project, program, and portfolio management:

  • A project is a short-term effort undertaken by a company or group (such as the creation of a new product, service, or result)
  • A program is a collection of projects that are similar or related to one another and are frequently handled and coordinated as a group rather than separately.
  • A portfolio is a collection of distinct programs and/or projects within the same company that may or may not be connected.

In other words, projects are part of larger programs, which are part of portfolios. Though related, project, program, and portfolio management duties are fundamentally different.

Project manager: Roles and tasks

The major aspects of the job of project managers are to balance the scope of work—also known as “deliverables”—to satisfy the project objectives with the resources that are available within the timeline and budget. They must execute all of this while ensuring that the project fulfills the quality requirements set by its customers. Project management is the application of the appropriate tools, strategies, and procedures in a value-added manner to effectively execute a project. As we all know, the corpus of project management knowledge is vast, and a variety of skills, tools, and strategies are available to assist project managers in delivering these endeavors. What matters is that the project managers understand the project, its aims and objectives, and the challenges it encounters, then identify, choose, and apply the appropriate project management tools.

Program Manager: Roles and tasks

A program manager is in charge of ensuring the success of a collection of related projects that support a strategic effort. They provide program-level roadmaps for a group of projects. Ensuring that the whole program supports portfolio and company-wide objectives is an important factor in how this role contributes to business strategy. Program managers monitor the high-level development of each project daily and ensure that everything is coordinated and synchronized. They are actively looking for ways to enhance and streamline work across the program. While program managers typically establish timelines and budgets for the overall program, they do not supervise the day-to-day operational work for individual projects.

Portfolio Manager: Roles and tasks

Portfolio managers are in charge of the success of a group of programs that may or may not be interrelated. In certain circumstances, the portfolio may include all of the company’s projects. Portfolio managers assist executive managers in ensuring that work completed across the organization supports wider business objectives. Portfolio managers are exceptional strategic thinkers. They establish the strategy for the whole program portfolio to guarantee alignment with the broader organizational plan. They create roadmaps that indicate how all programs are moving toward their objectives. Portfolio managers are in charge of optimizing a set of offerings and ensuring the business outcomes necessary to meet organizational objectives. They balance program activity throughout the portfolio, defining the resources and finances required for each program. They also create big-picture schedules to give program and project managers direction and clarity.

Project vs. Program vs. Portfolio Managers

Beyond the difference between project/program management, it is critical to understand who manages each and the specific roles assigned to each. The program manager’s role differs depending on the organization. Some companies emphasize the role’s business aspects. Others will focus on information technology or specialized technology, focusing on specific technical and project management skills. Program managers are in charge of the cross-functional program from start to finish, from developing the strategy to delivering the set of desired outcomes.

The program manager is also in charge of Initiative prioritization and budgeting, creating a plan for cross-organizational collaboration, assuring the capability and availability of resources, managing interdependencies between projects, and assuring that program-level objectives are met. Program managers are responsible for overseeing strategic projects that span departments and business divisions and report to an Enterprise PMO, Strategic Planning Office, or line of business.

A project manager’s responsibilities may include Project scoping, scheduling, and approvals; Management of resources and risks, and budget administration. Team members and stakeholders are kept up to date on the status of the project. A portfolio manager is in charge of managing and using the life cycle of investments, initiatives, programs, projects, and outcomes to meet company goals and objectives as efficiently as possible. Portfolio managers are responsible for optimizing their project portfolios, balancing capacity versus demand, and connecting strategies and resources to project execution.

How they All Work Together

In certain businesses, project managers, program managers, and portfolio managers work in or with a Project Management Office, which is a group or department that coordinates the work of project managers, program managers, and portfolio managers. The project management office (PMO) creates and establishes guidelines for how projects are managed inside the company. To be effective, project managers, program managers, and portfolio managers within an organization must all understand the responsibilities that each other plays in determining a strategic goal’s successful execution. Without this knowledge, there might be unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding, which could sink a project before it gets started. Projects are subsets of programs, while programs are subsets of portfolios. Each is unique, yet they work best when managed as a group.

A consistent organizational management structure addressing all three domains is required for the integrated program, portfolio, and project management. While integration is essential, the management of various areas should remain independent and complementary at the same time.