July 09, 2020

What is Program Management: The Purpose behind It

What is program management, what are the tasks of a program manager and how can you differentiate it from multi-project and portfolio management?
Program Management explained:

Gerald Aquila

Gerald Aquila

371 words • 3 minutes

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What Is a Program and what is Program Management?

A program is defined as several projects that closely resemble each other or that contribute together to an overall objective. Projects in a program can be loosely or closely related.

A program is often created when projects are too large to be managed efficiently as a single project. If the project is split into individual sub-projects, a higher-level program is automatically created.

Program management focuses on the interactions, dependencies and the combined impact of these projects. The program is managed by the program manager who is supported by his program team. The program team usually consists of the project managers of the individual projects.

Program Manager Definition

A program manager coordinates the connections and dependencies of the individual projects. He or she is also responsible for the overall result that occurs after the projects have been completed and for other effects of his or her program, such as ROI. Usually, the program manager is also responsible for negotiation and conflict resolution with stakeholders and strategic management.

Project Manager Definition

In contrast, the project manager is not responsible for the overall goal, but only for the completion of his project. The meaningful closing factors here are time, budget and quality of the completed projects.

Multi-Project, Portfolio or Program Management—What Are the Differences?

Multi-project management refers to the management of projects in an organizational unit that are carried out simultaneously.

Portfolio management focuses on the management of different projects and programs in an organization. It also coordinates all programs and projects in such a way that they contribute optimally to the achievement of strategic corporate goals.

Program management, on the other hand, focuses solely on the achievement of the program objective and its impact by harmonizing the projects within the program and maximizing synergies. In addition, interdependencies between projects are controlled and resource conflicts are resolved where necessary.

Portfolio-Management-Dashboard-Software-by-ONEPOINT-Projects Portfolio Management: The Dashboard in ONEPOINT Projects

Incidentally, good project and portfolio management software enables the linking of strategic measures and projects to ensure maximum achievement of corporate goals.

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Relevant Project Management Terms

Multi-Project Management  

If several projects are executed simultaneously within an organization, this is called "multi-project management". In contrast to program management, multi-project management includes all projects of an organization. The term "multi-project management" is primarily used in the German-speaking world.

Portfolio Management  

Portfolio management generally refers to the bundling and management of objects (tangible or intangible). In project management this means the management of projects that are bundled in a portfolio. The differentiation to „multi project management“ is not clear in the German-speaking world.


A program consists of several sub-projects that contribute to an overall program objective. Very large and complex projects are often split up into several sub-projects, which automatically makes the original project the program.

Program Management  

Program management is the planning, management and control of one or more programs, i.e. of several sub-projects that have been combined into one program.