Leaders in Portfolio, Program(me) and Project Management
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Frequently Asked Questions


Reference Centre

Frequently Asked Questions

P3 Management Services provides answers to those frequently asked questions regarding portfolio, programme and project management.

Programme vs Program Management

The short answer is that Programme Management is defined, by the UK Office of Government Commerce, as the coordinated organisation, direction and implementation of a portfolio of projects and activities that together achieve outcomes and realise benefits that are of strategic importance (emphasis added)

On the other hand, Program Management is defined, by the Project Management Institute, as the management of a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually.

Whilst both programme and program management relate to the effective management of related projects, programme management goes further by defining that the projects combine to produce outcomes and benefits that are of strategic importance.

Away from the definitions, one practical difference between programme and program management is that the projects within a programme can be added or cancelled provided that the overall strategic objectives are maintained. Program management generally does not have this flexibility as each sub­project has been separately approved.

A more comprehensive answer can be found in our leadership paper When is a Programme not a Program?


Organisational Change vs Project Management - what's the difference?

None. Regardless of whether you're managing and organisational change initiative, an IT project or managing a large construction project you will be using the project management sub-disciplines of planning, risk management, quality control, stakeholder management etc. The difference between organisational change projects and other types of projects (eg. IT or construction) is the 'technical' skills employed by the project team members. Where one might employ an architect for a construction project, a solutions architect for an IT project, one would engage a business process designer for a organisational change project. Regardless of the 'technicians' engaged, the project management skills remain the same.


Rule of thumb for reporting performance issues

Whilst 10% is a good rule of thumb, margin or tolerance for deciding when to escalate issues affecting a project's performance, it is not an absolute rule. The margin of error or tolerance on any performance metric (schedule, cost, scope or benefits) should be determined through discussions at the commencement of the project with the project sponsor. In some instances one or more of these metrics may have particular significance. For example, a project may need to be implemented before the end of a financial year. Accordingly the tolerance for the schedule metric would be 0%. Similarly, an organisation may have a minimum rate of return on investment. Accordingly, rather than a margin, tolerance or rule of thumb that is percentage based, the project sponsor may set a floor return on investment through which the project should not fall.


What is the most important project management skill?

Communication is the most important portfolio, program(me) and project management skill. And by 'communication' we don't just mean the ability to write, speak and present well, even though these are important. We also mean the ability to actively listen, understand, interpret and translate to what is being said by the client, the user community and the technicians. Without the skill to actively listen and understand, portfolio, program(me) and project managers will not be able to discern between: - what a client states they want and what they need; - the symptoms and causes of project performance risks and issues. Indeed without good communication skills a portfolio, program(me) or project manager can not effectively undertake planning (scope, time, cost and procurement management), manage delivery (quality, change, human resource or risk management) or integrate the parts into a whole (integration management).


What is the first thing a project manager should do when assigned a project?

Nothing…...Well, not quite nothing, just nothing active.

The first thing a portfolio, program(me) or project manager should do when assigned a new project, or when called to take over a project, is to read the available documentation and/or engage with the client/business to build a clear and common understanding of: WHY the project is being undertaken - the problem to be solved, the opportunity to be exploited or the legislative requirement to be followed WHAT the project is to produce - the scope or outputs to be produced. It should be clear that the WHAT will address the WHY WHEN the project is to be completed in order to achieve the benefits defined in the WHY WHO is involved in the delivery of the project - the project team members and influential stakeholders HOW MUCH the project is expected to cost and any other budgetary limitations Only after gaining and validating one's understanding of the WHY, WHAT, WHEN, WHO and HOW MUCH should a project, program(me) or portfolio manager pick up a pen and commence any planning activity.

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