Comparing Projects, Programs, and Portfolios

An organization consists of many working parts. When building in technology, it’s most common to have multiple projects and programs under one portfolio. There’s a difference in these and how you approach them. Most people aren’t aware of the difference.


A project is a temporary effort that has a start date and end date. You know the project will get to the finish line and when.

When brainstorming a project, there are set objectives and features it should have. The scope should be clear and scope creep noted.

The resources needed in a project can range from people, hardware, stakeholders, and any other entity that may cost money. The resources will have set objectives too. These are not the same as features. These objectives are KPIs, which can range from costs, scheduling, quality, and milestones.

Good examples of technology projects are:

  • Software
  • Websites
  • Mobile Apps
  • Hardware installation
  • Database management
  • Emergency Recovery
  • Server Infrastructure

The advantages of a project are:

  • Opportunity to be agile
  • Being responsive to change (features, requests, hardware)
  • Set specific goals

The disadvantages of a project are:

  • Limited scope


A program consists of multiple projects with interdependencies. The collection of projects works towards a common objective.

Since a program consists of multiple projects, you will have a large scope. A project has a single scope, whereas a program has a scope of all the projects in the collection.

Since a program involves more than one key function, programs have longer timelines. A program timeline will be cumulative of all the projects.

Examples of technology programs are:

  • Government Development Programs
  • Research & Development Programs

The advantages of a program are:

  • Efficient
  • Cost-effective
  • Allows for coordination of multiple projects

The disadvantages of a program are:

  • Complex
  • Coordination challenges
  • Longer timelines


A portfolio is a collection of projects, programs, and operations for a business. These can be internal or external. This collection will always align with a strategic objective.

The scope is very broad in a portfolio. You are taking the cumulative scope of every project and program in your collection. These scopes can range from months or years.

A portfolio is a great way to analyze a business and determine a priority for projects or programs.

Examples of technology portfolios are:

  • Company Product Portfolio
  • Government Agency Portfolio

The advantages of a portfolio are:

  • Strategic advancements
  • Alignment with long-term goals
  • Broad Scope

The disadvantages of a portfolio are:

  • Changing priorities
  • Large scope

Published on: January 10, 2024