Understanding Project Management and Its Relationship to Program and Portfolio Management

In this article we will discuss the activities involved and the relationship between portfolio management, program management, project management and organizational project management.

In addition, we will look at the role projects have in strategic planning and finally we will discuss the project management office and its importance.

Portfolios, programs and projects are all related and aligned to organizational strategy. In the same manner, portfolio management, program management and project management all contribute to the achievement of the strategic goals of the organization in different ways.

The various activities of these three areas all relate to the organizational project management (OPM). Organizational project management is the systematic management of projects, programs, and portfolios in alignment with the achievement of strategic goals. The PMI concept of organizational project management is based on the idea that there is a correlation between an organization’s capabilities in project management, program management, and portfolio management and the organization’s effectiveness in implementing strategy.

A program is a group of projects that are similar in scope, activities, and have similar subprograms. The purpose of a program is to manage the projects in a coordinated way.

Not all projects conducted within the organization will fall into the same program. however, programs will always have projects.

Program management involves providing the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to the program in order for program requirements to be met.

Program management focuses on the co-operation between the projects to determine the optimal approach to managing them. Usually these projects are interdependent, for example having the same resource requirements, governance structure and similar strategic organizational direction along with this they may face similar issues and change management considerations.

Portfolio Management

The portfolio includes all programs, projects, and subprograms that meet a strategic objective of the organization. Programs and projects do not need to be related in order to be in the portfolio, the only requirement is to contribute the same overall strategic objective(s) of the organization. Portfolio management is the centralized management of one or more portfolios that will help the organization achieve its overall strategic objectives, it is concerned with all projects and programs, part of the management process is to ensure that all projects and programs have the proper resource allocation and that all programs and projects are aligned and support the overall strategic objectives of the organization.

Now we will look at projects and strategic planning

Projects should be created to directly or indirectly assist with the achievement of an organisation’s strategic objectives

Some strategic considerations which lead to projects include:

  • Market demand – Many industries are facing a time of change and great competition. It is important for organizations to recognize the needs of the market and respond appropriately. Because of the importance of responding quickly, effectively and cost efficiently projects are often initiated to address these issues or opportunities
  • Strategic opportunity or a business need – A project may be initiated to develop new product or service in order to expand the organization, increase revenue, or solve a problem that company is encountering
  • Social need – Projects are initiated to help a community or group of people solve issues the people may be facing.
  • Environmental considerations – Companies today are continually looking for new ways to improve their operations to be more “environmentally friendly”.
  • Customer request – Organizations are always looking for new ways to satisfy the needs and wants of the customers, so a project may be setup to meet a specific customer need.
  • Technology advances, technology continually changes, as a result the products, services, and operations of the organization must be continually improved to stay in line with trends, opportunities or threats caused by these developments
  • Legal requirements, organizations are required to follow and meet certain legal guidelines for their industries, project are often developed to meet these requirements.

The Project Management Office

A project management office (PMO) is a management structure that is used to standardize project processes and also allow for the sharing of resources, methodologies, tools, and techniques.

The PMO can be supportive in nature. In this role, the PMO takes on a consultative role to projects by providing templates, best practices, training, access to information and lessons learned from past projects. In the supportive role, the control level the PMO over the specific project is low

The PMO can also have a controlling role, in this role, the PMO would provide support and require compliance through various means. They include having standard project management practices and methodologies, using similar templates and tools. In the controlling role, the control level the PMO has over projects is considered moderate

Finally, the PMO can have the directive role. In this role, the PMO takes direct control of the projects in its remit. In the directive role the control level the PMO over the projects’ processes is considered high.

The PMO can provide a great benefit to the organization through sharing information, identifying and implementing common methodologies, training new project managers and coordinating across different projects.

The role of the PMO will be determined by the organization and the level of structure considered to be necessary

In general project managers are still in charge of their individual projects and PMO is concerned with establishing guidelines and providing support to all projects

Role of a Project Manager and Methodological Approaches of Project Management

Project management is an important field of study. Many universities and colleges around the world offer different graduate and post graduate level degrees in this field. In order to apply for these degree courses people need to have a certain level of skills, knowledge, aptitude and maturity. A professional in this field needs to take a lot of difficult decisions on a regular basis and so, it is important that he or she has a high EQ or emotional quotient, which is required to take unbiased decisions. The project management degree courses do provide training to the individuals for acquiring a higher EQ.

The project managers are employed in different private and public companies and even in government organizations where they have to take care of different projects, meant for the development of the community or the society at large. Over a period of time, the demand for degree courses in this field, has increased by leaps and bounds. In order to meet this increase in demand, many new management institutions were established which started offering both online and offline degrees, diplomas and other courses in the field of project management. These institutions also offer certification courses as well and these courses are conducted online.

Professionals who successfully complete these degrees are hired by different industries and even by governmental bodies to handle several nationwide projects. In private companies the projects are often of small scale and they last for a short period of time. They are often aimed at improving the performance of the company or improving its sales and revenues. In government projects, the aim is mainly to achieve long term results and the projects include a lot of resources, man power and revenue. They are people who can make a difference to the success of the organization, both in the public and the private sector.

Many managers, working in managerial positions across the industries, open opt for certification courses in project management. These courses help the professionals in getting more responsibilities and a better profile in their respective organizations. With the skills and knowledge acquired through these courses, the managers can responsively and effectively handle different projects which are introduced in their companies. Many government officials also undergo training in this field of study from time to time as these officials have to supervise many large scale projects. Thus, project management degree and certification courses are always in demand.

Main tasks

In order to become a project manager, one would require having a certain amount of experience and knowledge, including a thorough study of the techniques of project management, problem solving, outstanding characteristics of leadership and excellent communication skills. The degree courses in this field of study will help the student in acquiring a clear understanding of the responsibilities, duties and roles of a project manager.

The main tasks of the project manager include:

  • Process planning and scheduling of detail,
  • Organize efficiently and effectively the human resources at its disposal,
  • Facilitate communication and the understanding of the project team,
  • Allocate resources and monitor activities on the course,
  • periodically carry out the process of monitoring, reporting to the steering committee the progress of works and estimates of completion, anticipating the needs of any particular intervention or review contracts,
  • Participate in the steering committee and implement the decisions,
  • Take all necessary actions to prevent risks,
  • Liaise with users and end users reference planning and involvement in various activities of the project,
  • Produce the documentation of its jurisdiction and oversee that produced by the team project,
  • Check the quality of the partial products and ensure that quality standards adopted are respected,
  • Provide for the accounting of resources on behalf of his company (your provider),
  • After the close of the project, providing for the summary task,
  • Always have a special focus on process improvement project.

Generally, when a project draws to a closure, the tension often tends to drop, so that group members sometimes diminish the pace of their efforts in tackling the latest project deadlines. Inevitably, people start thinking about the next assignment, even if they are required to address new or urgent needs of the project. Even in this case, the project manager has a crucial strategic role, providing encouragement to the team for staying focused on successfully completing the project.

Methodological approaches

In all project management degrees, diplomas and training courses, the different methods or methodological approaches used by project managers to complete a project is given a lot of importance.

This field consists of different methodological approaches adopted for the management of a project, including agile approaches, interactive, incremental and based on pre-defined sequence of steps.

Many of them refer to the PMBOK developed by the Project Management Institute and are universally recognized by management institutes, corporate giants and educational institutes.

Development phases of a project

Whichever approach is used, particular attention should be given to the setting of clear goals / objectives of the project and their implications, including a clear definition of roles and responsibilities of all actors involved, including contractors, is of decisive importance for the success of the project.

In the case of very complex projects (for example in the case of a set of related projects) and in cases where significant impacts of projects on these organizations and their processes are known, the project must be conducted with a more global approach, acting in terms of change management that focuses on managing the impact of human and organizational transformation within a business context and / or social.

Among the main existing approaches include:

The classical approach which is actually represented by the orthodoxy of the PMBOK developed by the Project Management Institute and which are connected with other frameworks;

The Rational Unified Process (RUP) consists of a framework for the iterative development of software products created by Rational Software Corporation;

The approach of Critical Chain (Chain / critical path) that focuses on resource availability as well as the logical dependencies between the activities of the project;

Approaches to project management based on processes (Process-based management) that are derived from a generalization of the concept of project control.

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