26 Apr 2017

Portfolios, Programs, and Projects – Relationship Clarification


A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. The temporary nature of projects indicates that a project has a definite beginning and end. The end is reached when the project’s objectives have been achieved or when the project is terminated because its objectives will not or cannot be met, or when the need for the project no longer exists. A project may also be terminated if the client (customer, sponsor, or champion) wishes to terminate the project. Temporary does not necessarily mean the duration of the project is short. It refers to the project’s engagement and its longevity. Temporary does not typically apply to the product, service, or result created by the project; most projects are undertaken to create a lasting outcome. For example, a project to build a national monument will create a result expected to last for centuries. Projects can also have social, economic, and environmental impacts that far outlive the projects themselves.
Every project creates a unique product, service, or result. The outcome of the project may be tangible or intangible. Although repetitive elements may be present in some project deliverables and activities, this repetition does not change the fundamental, unique characteristics of the project work. For example, office buildings can be constructed with the same or similar materials and by the same or different teams. However, each building project remains unique with a different location, different design, different circumstances and situations, different stakeholders, and so on.
An ongoing work effort is generally a repetitive process that follows an organization’s existing procedures. In contrast, because of the unique nature of projects, there may be uncertainties or differences in the products, services, or results that the project creates. Project activities can be new to members of a project team, which may necessitate more dedicated planning than other routine work. In addition, projects are undertaken at all organizational levels. A project can involve a single individual or multiple individuals, a single organizational unit, or multiple organizational units from multiple organizations.
A project can create:
• A product that can be either a component of another item, an enhancement of an item, or an end item in itself;
• A service or a capability to perform a service (e.g., a business function that supports production or distribution);
• An improvement in the existing product or service lines (e.g., A Six Sigma project undertaken to reduce defects); or
• A result, such as an outcome or document (e.g., a research project that develops knowledge that can be used to determine whether a trend exists or a new process will beneft society).

Examples of projects include, but are not limited to:
• Developing a new product, service, or result;
• Effecting a change in the structure, processes, staffing, or style of an organization;
• Developing or acquiring a new or modified information system (hardware or software);
• Conducting a research effort whose outcome will be aptly recorded;
• Constructing a building, industrial plant, or infrastructure; or
• Implementing, improving, or enhancing existing business processes and procedures.
The relationships Among Portfolios, Programs, and Projects
The relationship among portfolios, programs, and projects is such that a portfolio refers to a collection of projects, programs, sub portfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives. Programs are grouped within a portfolio and are comprised of subprograms, projects, or other work that are managed in a coordinated fashion in support of the portfolio. Individual projects that are either within or outside of a program are still considered part of a portfolio. Although the projects or programs within the portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or directly related, they are linked to the organization’s strategic plan by means of the organization’s portfolio.

Figure: Portfolio, Program, and Project Management Interactions

Above figure illustrates, organizational strategies and priorities are linked and have relationships between portfolios and programs, and between programs and individual projects. Organizational planning impacts the projects by means of project prioritization based on risk, funding, and other considerations relevant to the organization’s strategic plan. Organizational planning can direct the management of resources, and support for the component projects on the basis of risk categories, specific lines of business, or general types of projects, such as infrastructure and process improvement.


Source: This article is taken from

A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge, 5th edition,

Project Management Institute (PMI), 2013

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *