A paper presented to the Project Management Symposium on PM: Project Manager Role Evolution, Rome, Italy, 2004.

Updated 7/3/04

"PMI" and "PMBOK" are the registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute.
Published here July 2004.

Introduction | Characteristics of Project Management
Projects, Programs, and Project Portfolios | Defining Project Categories and Sub-Categories  
Classifying Projects within Categories and Sub-Categories | Project Portfolios
Organizational Capabilities and Maturity in Project Management | PART 2

Classifying Projects within Categories and Sub-Categories

There is a wide range of projects within each project category or sub-category in large organizations. The project management process for each project category must provide the flexibility to choose the proper level of detail for planning and control of large, complex, high-risk, 'new territory' projects compared to smaller or 'old hat' projects. It may be necessary or useful to further classify projects within categories or sub-categories using the following (or other) characteristics:

  • Project size
  • Project complexity
  • External or internal customer
  • Degree of customer involvement in the project levels of risk in projects
  • Major and minor projects within a category
  • "Mega " projects or programs
  • "Stand-alone " versus "create supporting infrastructure " projects
  • "Standard " versus "transitional " projects
  • (See Archibald and Voropaev 2003 for a more detailed discussion of these factors.)

Multi-Project Programs

Programs are defined as long-term undertakings that include two or more projects that require close coordination (Archibald 2003, p 25). Projects within a program are usually closely related in some way, such as using common resources, having dependency relationships (in which tasks within one project cannot proceed until the results of tasks within a second project have been completed,) or supporting common strategic objectives. Programs may be related to a particular product line, operating division, or geographic area, for example. Projects having a common customer may also be grouped within a program, as another example. A UK definition of the term programme (in the project management arena) is "a set of related projects with a common strategic goal or aim " (Harpham 2002, p 7).

The responsibilities of a program manager are similar to but broader than those of a project manager, since the program manager gives direction to and integrates the efforts of two or more project managers. The program manager role is of longer duration than that of any of his project managers, since the overlapping projects within a program rarely, if ever, start and end at the same time. "Unlike projects, programmes had no distinctive start or end, rather the strategy could be accelerated or slowed down, by introducing new projects, speeding up old existing ones, or slowing up projects, or stopping existing or planned projects respectively (Harpham 2002, p 3).

Project and Programme Management within the UK

The UK's Office of Government Commerce/OGC has for some years developed and promoted project management concepts for governmental and nongovernmental applications. Its publications include:

  • PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments): "a structured method for effective project management (OGC PRINCE2 2002, p iii).
  • Management of Risk/MoR: Guidance for Practitioners that "sets out a framework for taking informed decisions about risk at a project, programme and strategic level to assure that key risks are identified, assessed and that action is taken to address them (OGC MoR 2002, p ix).
  • Managing Successful Programmes/MSP: "a pragmatic approach that will help organizations deliver and realize the required benefits, innovation, and new ways of working that will take them through the next decade (OGC MSP 1999, p xi).

Programme management as practiced in the UK and its sphere of influence in Europe and elsewhere is essentially the same as project portfolio management in North America and elsewhere. "Programme management exists to bridge the gap between Corporate Strategy and Projects. It enables that fundamental question to be asked before starting the project 'where does it fit into the corporate strategy?' " (Harpham 2002, p 5).

Role of Program Management

Spina (2003, p 23) gives a current example of the role of program management within General Motors' new car model development and launch operations as:

  • Align organizational resources
  • Create single integrated program management organization
  • Provide single voice for Program Management with Product Development
  • Coordinate major work processes
  • Balance process and organizational stability with improved competitiveness.

Program Management in Governmental Agencies

Many public agencies use a "planning, programming and budgeting system " that involves a number of high level programs that are really a hybrid form of program management since they are made up of projects plus on-going "level-of-effort " operating activities.

Defining Project Categories and Sub-Categories  Defining Project Categories and Sub-Categories

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