Differences between Projects, Programs and Portfolio

Program Management Project Management
For the ones who know, its obvious, but for those who dont, a little help is good. Given below is my attempt to explain the basic differences between Projects, Programs and Portfolio. 

A project is a unique process consisting of a set of co-ordinated and controlled activities with start and finish dates, undertaken to achieve an objective conforming to specific requirements including the constraints of time, cost and resources.

A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.
(PMI) 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 of the scope of discrete projects in the program.
(PMI) A collection of projects or programs and other work that are grouped together to facilitate effective management of that work to meet strategic business objectives. The projects or programs of the portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or directly related.

Integration of HR system with Oracle apps
IT Transformation program
NASA’s space program
Have defined objectives and scope is progressively elaborated during the project life cycle.
Wider scope compared to projects and more focused on the benefits
The scope is driven by the strategic business objective that the portfolio is created to address.
Success criteria
Success is measured by the product and project quality, timeliness, budget compliance, and degree of customer satisfaction.
Success is measured by the degree to which the program satisfies the needs and benefits for which it was undertaken.
Success is measured in terms of aggregate performance of portfolio components and on the long term value creation to investors and stakeholders.
Project schedule is the time taken create the deliverables expected out of the project
Program schedule is essentially the aggregation of the schedule of the program components
Portfolio does not have a schedule. Individual program/projects that facilitate achieving the business objectives will have their respective schedules,
Risk Management
Risks are typically considered as threats.
Risks are considered as opportunities but sometimes as threats also.
Risks are considered as deviation from stakeholder  expectations and managed through portfolio balance.
Monitoring and Control
Project manager directly monitors and controls the activities and deliverables.
Program manager uses program governance mechanism for monitoring and control.
Portfolio manager monitors the aggregated performance and value indicators.
Leadership style
Mainly execution oriented, Project manager is part of the team.
Program manager is the leader with the vision and aids in relationship and conflict management
Portfolio managers add value to the portfolio decisions
Hrishikesh Karekar
I have been a developer, a project manager, a delivery manager, an agile coach and led end to end agile transformations as an enterprise coach. These days, I am facilitating to design, build and animate the agile community at Capgemini India.

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