Definition of Program vs Project

Program Management is a method to manage related groups of projects.

PMI defines it as
“A group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually. Programs may include elements of related work outside scope of the discrete projects in the program.” – PMBOK pg 368

I think it is a collections of initiatives and projects that are designed to accomplish a strategic business objective. It is important to know the business driver of “why?” the work is being done. There can be a high cost of programs due to the length and scope being quite complex, so selling the benefits and gaining support for program is imperative.

Programs include

  • A single product or deliverable
  • Many product deliverables
  • Can be a combination of ongoing support activity in addition to deliverables
  • Usually focuses on business objectives and delivering value
  • Benefit management

Characteristics of Programs

  • Deliverables with a strategic intent
  • Business Change
  • Significant change in the organization
  • Success criteria including growth, productivity gains, and improvement in the market
  • There are significant risks
  • Environmental change as well as change in program
  • Longer in duration than projects
  • Benefits are achieved throughout duration of program

Program Management Skills vs Project Management Skills

Key Points

  • Programs have larger scope than projects and typically run at higher levels in the organization
  • Strategic initiatives are linked to programs
  • Programs require more sophisticated approach to managing change and navigating politics
  • The external environment is important to understand and monitor since it impacts program success

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