Published here January 2013

Executive Summary | Governance in General | More Definitions
Project Portfolio Management Governance | Programs and Projects
Project Portfolio Management Governance Guidelines | Summary and Conclusions

Programs and Projects

At the program level

By definition:

  • A program is an entity typically created to oversee a set of related projects and activities that together deliver benefits to satisfy the organization's strategic objectives.
  • A very large initiative (i.e. project) may be broken down in this way to provide better overall control.
  • Conversely, a program may be viewed as a very large project with detailed control delegated to major work packages.
  • As such the program will terminate when the last project within its sphere of influence is completed.

At the project level

  • The project, and its concomitant management structure, is the basic building block for the whole edifice.

An important distinction between programs and projects is that project program management is intended to provide "governance" that includes planning and coordination. However, it does not (or at least should not) exercise direct control over the activities of the separate projects. That is the responsibility of the project managers of the individual projects. To do more is to usurp or undermine the authority of the project manager and reduce the efficiency of the project delivery process.

However, the project manager does have the responsibility to report upwards such items as current progress status, major milestones achieved, forecast completion, forecast cost-at-completion, anticipated resource requirements, anticipated risks, and so on. That is necessary for program management to coordinate and manage the project collection as a whole. In particular, this includes the anticipated overall cash flow impact on the corporate organization, other resource requirements, and the expected final delivery of the whole program.

From these notes we see that Program Management and Project Management have major similarities and convergence. Therefore it can be argued that Program Management should have its own "governance" criteria, that is, distinct from the higher levels of management.

It should be noted that since the definition of "governance" is not specific, then the borderline between governance activities and management activities is often a grey area. It is even an area in contention in some organizations, especially between one participating department and another. Moreover, what may be viewed as "governance" at one level may be seen as "management" at the next level up.

Project Portfolio Management Governance  Project Portfolio Management Governance

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