Projects, Programs & Portfolios

Recently I had the opportunity to interact with the CEO of a manufacturing company, a supplier of automobile accessories to globally renowned brands of automobiles. He has this wonderful plan to increase the turnover of the company 10 times (10X) within the next five years time. Going by his track record, this is quite feasible, if the portfolio of programs, projects and other work supporting this vision are planned properly and executed well.


Portfolio is a collection of programs, projects and other work, supporting the organization’s business strategy for growth. Project Portfolio Management (PPM) or Enterprise Portfolio Management (EPM) is always linked to achieving the business goals of the organization.

Portfolio management comprises of;

  • Selecting the right projects which are in true alignment to the organization’s strategy for growth.

  • Maintaining this alignment throughout by optimizing the project portfolio according to the dynamic changes in the environment.

  • Project portfolio management is performed Portfolio managers

  • Program managers of the programs which are part of the portfolio reports to the portfolio manager

Portfolio Management explained further

Organizations have business goals to achieve (say improve sales by 25% in the next financial year)

Business goals are supported by business strategies. For example;

      • Improved online marketing

      • New product development

      • Marketing existing products in new geographies

These strategies are supported by projects

  • New web site design, development and deployment

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Design, development, marketing, sales and support of new products

  • Setting up sales & marketing teams, tools and systems to address new markets

Organizations have very limited funds to spend, so they must allow only the best projects to proceed.

Project Portfolio Management (PPM) or Enterprise Portfolio Management (EPM) involves;

  • Identifying and selecting the best projects, programs and other work which are in true alignment to the organization’s strategy for growth

  • Funding and staffing those projects

  • Monitoring and controlling those projects (at a very high level)

  • Scanning the environment for environment related risks which may impact the current portfolio of projects, so that they can be optimized. For example, due to the pandemic (environment related risk) most of the organizations had to drop some projects from their portfolio and replace them with more suitable ones (physical store Vs online stores)

Portfolios are managed by portfolio managers

The program managers whose projects are part of the portfolio reports to the portfolio managers

Within portfolios, there can be stand-alone projects which are not part of any programs,

those project managers also report to the portfolio manager


Programs are a collection of inter-related projects, which when done together provides more value than doing them one after the other.

  • Programs are managed my program managers

  • Project managers of the projects which are part of the program reports to the program manager

  • It is not mandatory that all projects must be part of programs. There can be independent stand alone projects which are not part of any program.

Example of a Program

The city has a traffic congestion problem during peak hours. In-order to solve this problem,

the authorities launched a program to improve the traffic conditions within the city and the

program comprised of the following projects;

  • Metro rail project

  • Water metro project

  • Cycling project

  • Traffic and safety awareness programs to drivers and pedestrians

  • Improving the condition of the existing roads

Each of these projects had their own project managers and they all reported to the program managers


  • Projects are unique in nature

  • Have definite start and end dates

  • Delivers unique products or services as output

  • Are progressively elaborated

  • Are considered as successful when completed within the agreed upon time and cost, and met the business goal for which the project was undertaken.

  • Managed by project managers


Portfolios, Programs and Projects are tightly linked and a good understanding of the linkages will help to manage the projects better. Without establishing the linkages correctly, integrated approach to portfolio, program and project management cannot be implemented, which in turn can affect the organization’s plans for growth.