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Projects, Programs and Portfolios

Projects, Programs and Portfolios are Project Management terms that are utilized to describe individual projects, collections of projects or strategic groupings of projects and non project initiatives. There is often much confusion as to the classification of programs and portfolios. The goal of this post is to help clarify and provide an example of each.

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) defines each as follows:


A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.


A group of related projects, sub-programs and program activities, managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.


Projects, programs, sub-portfolios and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.

The following practical examples, illustrate proper classification and differences of each term:


The implementation of a new accounting system.


The implementation of a new accounting system, finance system and marketing sales system that all are part of a global business transformation program.


All projects and programs for the North American Business Unit of an automobile manufacturer that all are under the same budget control, but are not all related to each other.

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