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Program Management

Project vs Program

 , updated on June 23, 2017
A project is a managed initiative of fixed duration, budget and scope. A program is a long running initiative with broad strategic goals. The following are key differences between the two:

Time

Projects have a start and end date. Programs may be ongoing or have an end date that is years in the future.

Complexity

Programs are a way to break complex missions into manageable chunks of work. As a general rule, programs accomplish far greater complexity than a single project. For example, a program may involve multiple concurrent projects that have interdependencies.

Objectives & Goals

A program has broad strategic goals such as transforming an organization's business model, product offerings or cost structure. A project may have objectives that are a step towards strategic goals but aren't end-goals in themselves.

Budget

A project has a baseline scope, budget and schedule. A program may be tied to an organization's annual budget process whereby it submits a request for funds each year.

Calendar

A project may run independently of a firm's financial calendar. A program may be required to report into a firm's quarterly results.

Level

Programs are often visible to a firm's executive team and board of directors. Projects may be much lower level, reporting to a program management team or middle management.

Change

Programs expect change and projects control change. Programs may accept all ideas for change into a backlog and prioritize things into projects. Projects are meant to deliver a fixed set of requirements with a stable scope.
Overview: Project vs Program
Type
Difference
Projects are initiatives of fixed duration, budget and scope. Programs are long-running initiatives designed to achieve a strategic goal or business transformation.
Example
A program to transform a packaged software firm's business model to a software-as-a-service model that involves 50 projects to rewrite 50 software products to be cloud services.
Related Concepts

Program Management

This is the complete list of articles we have written about program management.
Acceptance Criteria
Change Management
Acceptance Testing
Due Diligence
Lessons Learned
Backlog
Program Controls
Program Efficiency
Program Evaluation
Business Transformation
Program Metrics
Program Planning
Program Risk
Program Success
Constraints
Project Branding
Project Management
Feasibility Analysis
Risk Management
Impact Evaluation
Risk Identification
Scope Creep
More ...
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Program Management

A list of program management techniques.

Program Evaluation

Common elements of a program evaluation.

Program Risk

An overview of program risk management.

Backlog

A definition of backlog with examples.

Impact Evaluation

A definition of impact evaluation with examples.

Program Efficiency

An overview of program efficiency including a calculation example.

Change Strategy

The definition of change strategy with examples.

Administration Examples

An overview of administration with examples.

Program Management Process

An overview of the program management process.

Project Management

A guide to project management.

Project Scope vs Product Scope

The difference between project scope and product scope.

Subproject

The common types of subproject.

Requirements Gathering

A definition of requirements gathering with example techniques.

Project Change Management

A definition of project change management with examples.

Cost Control

An overview of cost control with examples.

Project Communication

The common types of project communication.

Out Of Scope

A definition of out of scope with examples.

Schedule Feasibility

A definition of schedule feasibility with examples.
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