Project, programme and portfolio management


Project, programme and portfolio management (P3M) is the application of methods, procedures, techniques and competence to achieve a set of defined objectives.

The goals of P3 management are to:

  • deliver the required objectives to stakeholders in a planned and controlled manner;
  • govern and manage the processes that deliver the objectives effectively and efficiently.

Investment in effective P3 management will provide benefits to both the host organisation and the people involved in delivering the work. It will:

  • increase the likelihood of achieving the desired results;
  • ensure effective and efficient use of resources;
  • satisfy the needs of different stakeholders.

A consistent approach to P3 management, coupled with the use of competent resources is central to developing organisational capability maturity. A mature organisation will successfully deliver objectives on a regular and predictable basis.

Project and programme management

Projects and programmes are very similar in that they are unique, transient endeavours, undertaken to achieve a set of stated objectives. The distinction between a project and a programme is mainly made in order to accommodate different degrees of complexity of scope. The differences in project management and programme management mirror this distinction.

The central elements of both project and programme management are:

  • having a clear reason why the work is necessary;
  • capturing requirements, specifying objectives, estimating resources and timescales;
  • preparing a business case to explain that the work is desirable, achievable and viable;
  • securing funding for the work;
  • developing and implementing management plans;
  • leading and motivating the management and delivery teams;
  • monitoring and controlling scope, schedule, finance, risk and resources;
  • maintaining good relations with stakeholders;
  • closing the project or programme in a controlled manner when appropriate.

Components that relate to scope complexity, and are therefore typical characteristics of programme management are:

  • project co-ordination: identifying, initiating, accelerating, decelerating, redefining and terminating projects within the programme;

  • managing interdependencies between projects, and between projects change management activity;

  • transformation: taking project outputs and managing change within business-as-usual so that outputs deliver outcomes;

  • benefits management: defining, quantifying, measuring and monitoring benefits.

The sponsor and manager share responsibility for these elements with the sponsor being ultimately accountable for achievement of the business case.

The manager is responsible for the day-to-day running of the project or programme and needs to be competent in the six aspects of delivery:

 and if relevant to the scope of the work:

Competence in interpersonal skills such as leadership, influencing, communication and conflict management is also vitally important.

Where the scope of work includes benefits that include organisational change, business change managers are responsible for successful transition and benefits realisation.


Portfolio management

In a standard portfolio, portfolio management will focus on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of project and programme management across multiple projects and programmes with independent objectives.

The core components of standard portfolio management are:

  • establishing an infrastructure to support projects and programmes;

  • defining management procedures and processes to be used consistently across projects and programmes;

  • co-ordination of limited resources, by matching demand and supply and optimising allocation of available resources.

In addition to this, a structured portfolio co-ordinates projects and programmes that collectively realise a host organisation’s strategic objectives. The goal is to balance the implementation of change and the maintenance of business-as-usual while optimising the return on investment.

The additional core elements of structured portfolio management are:

  • maintaining a balanced portfolio aligned with strategic objectives in changing conditions;

  • improving delivery of projects and programmes through a co-ordinated, portfolio-wide view of risk, resources, dependencies and schedules;

  • co-ordinating the need for change with the capacity of different parts of the organisation to absorb change;

  • reducing costs by removing overlapping and poorly performing projects and programmes.

The management of a structured portfolio must constantly review the balance of investment and benefit, creating and closing projects and programmes as necessary.

24th March 2015Link to Italian page added
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