Project Management vs Program Management vs Portfolio Management

project-managment-vs-program-management-vs-portfolio-managmentIn this blog post I’m going to discuss Project Management, Program Management, Portfolio Management, and the differences among them. This topic is not very hard to understand but make sure you get it because you may see one, or two questions from this topic in your PMP Certification Exam.

This is one of the most important topics from a PMP Certification exam point of view.

Project and Project Management

As per the PMBOK Guide 4th Edition, “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” and the project management is the “application of knowledge, skill, tool, and technique to project activities to meet the project requirements.”

Please visit What are the Project and Operation & Difference Between them to read  further about the project.


A Program is a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to get benefits and control not available from managing them individually.

Program Management

Program Management is defined as the centralized coordinated management of a program to achieve the program’s strategic objectives. Here, only inter-related and inter-dependent projects are managed as a group to achieve desired benefits.

Benefits of the Program Management

  • Fewer conflicts among projects
  • Optimal utilization of resources
  • Resource constraints are minimized
  • Co-ordination among projects.


Portfolio refers to the group of related or non-related projects, or programs. A portfolio may consist of several non-related projects without having a single program.

For example, two non-related projects will be handled under the Portfolio Management instead of the Program management because in program management only related projects are managed.

Portfolio Management

In Portfolio Management, there is a centralized management, whose job is to identify, prioritize, authorize the projects, or program. This centralized management controls and manages the projects or programs to achieve strategic business objectives.

Portfolio Management sets the priority of the projects or programs in a group. Portfolio Management does not oversee any individual project, or the program.

Benefits of Portfolio Management

  • Optimal allocation and utilization of resources
  • Projects or programs constantly receive support
  • Fewer conflicts among projects, or programs
  • Better communication among projects, or programs
  • Co-ordination among projects, or programs.

Program and Portfolio Management facilitate better communication, and co-ordination among the projects and programs, resulting in enormous benefits in economies of scale and lesser risks.


Responsible Person

Project – project manager
Program – program manager
Portfolio – portfolio manager


Project –  well defined scope
Program – larger scope
Portfolio – business scope aligned with organization’s strategic goal

Success Criteria

Project – timely completion, under budget, and quality of output of the project
Program – degree to which it satisfies the objective it was undertaken
Portfolio – combined performance of its component.


  1. Paul ejike says

    How can one be a project manager. Am a graduate of physics and astronomy from University of Nigeria Nsukka. Pls i need your help.

    • Fahad Usmani says

      Hello Paul,

      I assume that you are asking about how to become a PMP.

      To become a PMP, graduation is enough. Second condition is to have three years of experience in leading and directing the project. If you have this much of experience then you can go for the training and apply for the exam.

      Once you pass this exam, you will be a PMP.

  2. mkhan1122 says

    Thank you Fahad. I am preparing for PMP Exam these days.

    This was really helpful. Keep up the good work.

  3. said says

    I guess you are a teacher M. FAHAD , if not you have to be :)
    you are doing a good job here.
    it’s so helpful.

    • Fahad Usmani says

      Thanks Said,

      I am just a blogger who passed the PMP exam and helping other to do so…

      I am glad that you’re benefiting from my posts…

  4. Michelle says

    In your above post you mention the 4th ed. of the PMBOK Guide. The 5th edition is out and that is what will be reference when I sit for the CAPM exam. Is this information still accurate?

    Thank you for your posts – they are very helpful in breaking down concepts and making analogies.

  5. Etu Friday says

    Hi Fahad,

    Kudos to you for the great work of knowledge shearing via your blog posts. Very informative publications indeed.

    Pls could you send me a one-in-all study material i can use wholly for the pmp exam via my email add?

    Appreciate your support.

    • Fahad Usmani says

      Hello Etu, all reference books are is in hard format that can not be shared through email, and the rest is copyrighted material, that is also can not be shared.

  6. Michael Hosho says

    Hi Fahad,

    Your explanation is simple and well understood and will help to perform audit examation of projects, programs with its relationship aligned to expenditure to achieve audit objective, and provide report/recommendations to management.

    Where and how can I get examples of past PMP exams before sitting for the exams.

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