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Project, programme or portfolio?

Today, rather than using project, initiatives, working parties or campaign as synonyms for the things we do to undertake change we have introduced a new set of words that includes the old word project, but adds two new ones: programme and portfolio. Projects are designed to deliver a particular scope that is clear at the outset with a one-to-one relationship between the work and the results (i.e. benefits) sought. Programmes are designed to shape and guide all the work to achieve a particular future state and set of benefits in situations where the detailed scope would be expected to emerge over time. Portfolios exist to ensure that scarce resources (i.e. people, money, equipment) are used most efficiently and effectively to deliver business value – portfolios could be collections of projects with a common theme, or collections of programmes. While it’s wasteful for people to keep on debating definitions, it’s equally wasteful for people to fail to realise how their particular managed change will deliver tangible organisational value, and then do it.

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