Program Management - Differences From Project Management

Differences From Project Management

The key difference between a program and a project is the finite nature of a project - a project must always have a specific end date, else it is an ongoing program.

One view of the differences between a program and a project in business is that:

  1. A project is unique and is of definite duration. A program is ongoing and implemented within a business to consistently achieve certain results for the business.
  2. A project is designed to deliver an output or deliverable and its success will be in terms of delivering the right output at the right time and to the right cost.
  3. Program management includes management of projects which, together, improve the performance of the organization. A program's success will be measured in terms of benefits.
  4. Benefits are the measures of improvement of an organization and might include increased income, increased profits, decreased costs, reduced wastage or environmental damage, more satisfied customers. In central or local government organizations, benefits might include providing a better service to the community.
  5. In the course of achieving required results, business programs will normally understand related business constraints and determine the processes required to achieve results based on resources allocated. Improvement of processes is a continuous operation that very much contrasts a program from a project.
  6. At the lowest level project managers co-ordinate individual projects. They are overseen by the program manager who accounts to the program sponsor (or board).
  7. There will normally be a process to change the predetermined scope of a project. Programs often have to react to changes in strategy and changes in the environment in which the organization changes.

Another view and another successful way of managing does not see any of the factors listed above as distinguishing projects from programs, but rather sees the program as being about portfolio management. On this view, program management is about selecting projects, adjusting the speed at which they run, and adjusting their scope, in order to maximize the value of the portfolio as a whole, and as economic or other external conditions change.

Yet another view is that a program management is nothing more than a large, complex project, where the integration aspect of project management is more important than in smaller projects. Integration management is a key feature of the Project Management Institute's approach to project management.

In practice it is not clear that there is such a clear-cut distinction. Projects (or programs) vary from small and simple to large and complex, what needs to be a managed as a program in one culture or organization may be managed as a project in another.

Read more about this topic:  Program Management

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