What is a Project, Programme, Portfolio?
Different sources tend to offer slightly different definitions for “project”, “programme” or “portfolio”; albeit offering variations on a common theme. I’ll share the main ones here:
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”British Standard BS 6079-2 : 2000 “Project management – Part 2: Vocabulary”.
Stevens, M. (Ed), “Project Management Pathways”. The Association for Project Management, High Wycombe, 2002
A project consists of a unique set of processes consisting of coordinated and controlled activities with start and end dates, performed to achieve project objectives. Achievement of the project objectives requires the provision of deliverables conforming to specific requirements”BS ISO 21500 : 2012 “Guidance on project management”
An endeavour in which human, material and financial resources are organised in a novel way to deliver a unique scope of work of given specification, often within constraints of cost and time, to achieve beneficial change defined by quantitative and qualitative objectives”Stevens, M. (Ed), “Project Management Pathways”
A project is a temporary organisation that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed business case”PRINCE – “Managing Successful Projects with Prince”
The most recent variant comes from the UK’s Association for Project Management’s Seventh Edition of its Body of Knowledge:
A unique, transient endeavour undertaken to bring about change and to achieve planned objectives”“APM Body of Knowledge Seventh Edition”
Three key points emerge from these definitions:
- A project concerns a unique set of co-ordinated activities
- The project delivers objectives conforming to specific requirements
- The project organisation is temporary
I think it’s also worth noting here that PRINCE specifically focusses on the temporary organisation, in contrast to other definitions which emphasise process or activity or resource.
An individual project may, of course, form part of a larger project structure. In some projects, the objective(s) is (are) refined and the product characteristics defined progressively as the project proceeds. The outcome of the project may be one of several units of product. The organisation is temporary and established for the lifetime of the project.
From these definitions, it follows that Project Management is:
The application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives”
Or as PRINCE offers:
the planning, delegating, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project and the motivation of those involved, to achieve the project objectives within the expected performance targets for time, cost, quality, scope, benefits and risks”
A Programme is:
A group of related projects”British Standard BS 6079-2 : 2000
A programme is generally a group of related projects and other activities aligned with strategic goals”BS ISO 21500 : 2012
A broad effort encompassing a number of projects and/or functional activities with a common purpose”Stevens, M. (Ed), “Project Management Pathways”
A unique, transient strategic endeavour undertaken to achieve beneficial change and incorporating a group of related projects and business as usual (steady-state) activities”“APM Body of Knowledge Seventh Edition”
The co-ordinated organisation, direction and implementation of a portfolio of projects and activities that together achieve outcomes and realise benefits that are of strategic importance”Office of Government Commerce, “Managing Successful Programmes”
Again, three key points about projects within a programme emerge:
- The projects are aligned to a common goal or purpose
- They are related
- They are in furtherance of a strategic transient endeavour
A Portfolio is:
A project portfolio is generally a collection of projects and programmes and other work that are grouped together to facilitate the effective management of that work to meet strategic goals”BS ISO 21500 : 2012
A grouping or bundle of projects, collected together for management convenience. They may or may not have a common objective, they are often related only by the use of common resources”Stevens, M. (Ed), “Project Management Pathways”
A collection of projects and/or programmes used to structure and manage investments at an organisational or functional level to optimise strategic benefits or operational efficiency”“APM Body of Knowledge Seventh Edition”
The key points being:
- A portfolio is a collection of projects and/or programmes and/or “other endeavours”
- They can be for managerial convenience and thus may not be related
- They are grouped at organisational or functional level to optimise strategic benefits or operational efficiency
Project vs Production Environments
As we have seen, both projects and programmes are transient endeavours and, accordingly, the teams assembled to deliver them; and the way in which these co-workers or collaborators are structured is temporary.
This contrasts with production environments, where those involved are working to create or produce the same product or products repeatedly and consistently.
Production management, sometimes called operations management can be defined as:
The planning and control of industrial processes to ensure they move smoothly at the required level”Encyclopaedia Britannica
Planning, organising, directing and controlling of production activities…. It deals with converting raw materials into finished goods or products”ilearnlot.com
In both ‘project management’ and ‘production management’ we see the classic management activity of: Planning, organising, co-ordinating and control but to different ends. A unique product in the case of a project and replicated products with production.
Production management responsibilities are often summarised by the “Six M’s”, namely: Men, machines, methods, materials, money and markets. It is in these areas where just in time and Kanban processes are most effective.
A downloadable copy of this paper, together with the references is available from Martin Stevens Academy
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