PostHeaderIcon Project or Program?

Is my project actually a program? Its a question sometimes asked by project managers unsure of whether their project has the right management approach. Oftentimes it is the lack of a clear distinction between the terms “project” and “program” that causes confusion. While “program” is usually associated with an initiative of larger scale, size alone is an inadequate differentiator – there are plenty of large projects that do not necessarily require program management practices.

The Project-Program Continuum

In reality we cannot easily draw a line between the two since the project-program transition occurs on a continuum, not a discrete point of separation.  Also, this continuum really comprises a number of parameters beyond natural considerations of size and cost – the graphic below may help to clarify:

Mapping an initiative against each of these factors may provide some guidance as to how it should be managed.  The more scores to the right side, the more likely that program planning, control and oversight methods would be appropriate.

Ultimately, a key question to ask is: “Can we obtain better control and better outcomes by managing as a program?”

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