Portfolio vs. Program vs. Project Management

Portfolio vs. Program vs. Project Management 

Have you found it challenging to distinguish the difference between portfolio, program, and project management? 

Keeping the image of a pyramid structure in mind will provide value in understanding the hierarchy of these various management terms. 

Portfolio management tends to be driven at a higher business leadership level. Programs are typically selected based on business needs aligning with the overall corporate strategy to advance the company forward. Portfolios consist of multiple programs, and each program may have multiple projects depending on its nature. Many portfolios are built of multiyear program efforts to drive forward change. 

Program management consists of managing various related or similar projects. Projects in a program tend to have similar scopes, a list of common requirements, potentially shared stakeholders, similar quality measurement metrics, and common deadlines or goals. Programs can be built to satisfy yearly needs based on an identified overall program budget that then drives a certain number of projects. 

Project management requires managing a project with a defined start and end goal. Each project should have a set scope, with criteria in place for a well-defined schedule and cost. Projects would have to go through various stages of the project lifecycle to carry them through the various stages of initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closure.  

As you see, portfolios, programs, and project management are all interrelated and complementary to each other.  

About Mesa Associates, Inc.  

Mesa is a woman/minority-owned full-service multi-discipline engineering, procurement, and construction management firm specializing in providing engineering services for the commercial, government, industrial, municipal, and electric utility industry. Mesa is currently providing over $188M of engineering services to 13 of the top 15 utilities across the United States. Our growth is a result of delivering quality projects and value to our clients with unparalleled customer service. We differentiate ourselves by saying we are Large Enough to Perform, Small Enough to Care.