Questions and Answers

What is a portfolio?

As defined by the Project Management Institute, “a portfolio (or project portfolio)" is a collection of projects or programs and other work that are grouped together to facilitate effective management of that work to meet strategic business objectives. The projects or programs of the portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or directly related. These components of a portfolio are quantifiable; that is, they can be measured, ranked and prioritized."  Portfolios can be along organizational lines, for example: IST portfolio, ERP portfolio; can be related to a business topic, for example student applications portfolio or IT services portfolio.

Additional distinguishing characteristics from projects or programs are:

  • other work in a portfolio is often operational in nature
  • portfolios do not have a defined end date
  • projects and programs can belong to more than one portfolio

What is a program?

According to PMBOK*, “a program is a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually."

A program will meet the following BEC criteria:

  • Benefits: contain a set of measurable, unique strategic benefits and objectives that are realized, managed, and reported throughout the program and that could not have been realized by managing the components of the program separately
  • Ends: has a start and end date, based on components, dependencies, and benefit realization within the program
  • Components: includes multiple components comprised of projects and initiatives, each of which are planned and controlled to collectively contribute towards the program’s strategic benefits and objectives

What is a project?

A project is defined as “A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result” (Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide))

A project will meet the following FUSA criteria:

  • Finite: has specific start and end dates
  • Unique: distinct from change management or operational maintenance, which have repetitive processes and/or objectives
  • Specific: intended to meet measurable, isolated, unique set of objectives
  • Adequate: has adequate scope of work and resources that would benefit from project management skills, tools and techniques

What is Portfolio Management?

The Project Management Institute defines "project portfolio management (PPM) — or simply portfolio management (PfM) — ... as the centralized management of one or more portfolios that enable executive management to meet organizational goals and objectives through efficient decision making on portfolios, projects, programs and operations.”

What is Program Management?

"Program management (PgM) is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to meet program requirements", as defined by PMI.

What is Project Management?

Project management (PM) is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to meet project requirements.  The life cycle for managing projects includes initiation, planning, execution, and closure. The management of a project includes identification of requirements, balancing stakeholder needs/expectations/concerns, and balancing competing constraints (scope, quality, schedule, budget, resources, and risk).

What is the difference between a goal, objective, benefit, and deliverable in a project?

Benefit: Answers "How will the project support the business?"

Benefits provide the justification for executing or justifying a project. They clarify "what's in it for me?" Benefits are achieved through the delivery of goals and objectives.

Goal: Answers "What will the project do to support the business benefit?"

Goals are much broader and longer term.  A goal does not have a set of actions associated with it.  A goal can be thought of as a vision for a program.

Objective: Answers "What are the specific project results?  What is the project specifically trying to achieve?"

Objectives are more in depth, shorter term, and provide a series of blueprints or actions to support what the project is trying to achieve (goals and benefits). Objectives are tangible and measurable and must be SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related).

Deliverable: Answers "What item(s) is the project expected to provide?"

Deliverables are the expected items to be delivered by the team.  A project objective should be achieved through the deliverable(s) of the project.

How do I know if my project or program was successful?

Success is measured through the success criteria established for an individual project or program that should answer the following three questions:

  • Did the project deliver what was asked for?
  • Are there benefits to what was delivered?
  • Did the process used to get to the end point work well?

What is a methodology?

A methodology is a collection of processes, methods, and tools for accomplishing an objective. It provides a checklist of key deliverables and activities to avoid missing key tasks. A project management methodology is a roadmap for managing projects (the project life cycle). A Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) methodology is a roadmap for managing the life cycle of an IT implementation/upgrade (the product life cycle).

How do the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) phases relate to project management phases?

The SDLC is a product (information systems) life cycle that defines phases and specific activities to deliver the product. The project management (PM) life cycle and methodology is applied to the product life cycle (SDLC) to successfully deliver the product. There may be many iterations of the SDLC within the PM life cycle for iterative, incremental, or agile projects.  Care should always be taken to distinguish the project life cycle from the product life cycle (SDLC) and to manage the integration between the two.

Why do we need methodologies?

The purpose of the methodologies are to provide a set of tools and templates to assist the project manager/leader and business analysts in reducing common risks associated with projects, and ensuring projects are executed more consistently. The information contained within the methodology should be scalable to individual projects based on project size and complexity.  The methodologies should be used for anything falling within the definition of a project.