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Projects, Programmes and Portfolios.


You will often hear this terminology as you move in your journey through the construction industry, and understanding the difference between a project, a programme and a portfolio is vital. It may sound old fashioned, but terminology really matters and every professional should learn their industry language.



Projects are typically a series of related tasks with a specific scope which when completed correctly will produce a tangible outcome. Projects are often managed by one project manager supported by their project team of engineers, designers, const managers and so on.


Connaught Tunnel and Crossrail West were both projects, however they were both projects that were part of the major Crossrail Programme


Programmes comprise multiple cross functional projects which are interlinked. Many may have different project objectives but work together to support the overall strategic goal of the programme. There are numerous project managers working on programmes and numerous teams carrying out the other functions. Depending on the size of the programme, specific support functions might be dedicated to the programme, such as Human Resources or IT.


Expo 2020 Dubai, The Olympics. Crossrail


Portfolios are the organisations way of selecting and prioritising the programmes and projects that it chooses to bid for and ultimately work on. This will often be based on the strategic objectives of the company and what capacity they have for carrying out that work. Portfolio management is long term and often looks five to ten or more years into the future to pinpoint the relevant projects and programmes that will support the business .


This is what the APM says about Projects, programmes and portfolios

What's my preference?

As I have moved through my career from engineering to project management, I have had to opportunity to work on projects and programmes and I definitely thrive in a programme environment. I love to be involved in large projects with large teams and lots of stakeholders. I enjoy the challenge of a fast paced and complex environment where you get to interact with lots of people. 

I always very carefully pick which projects and programmes that I work on and try to pick ones that I feel are suited to me. There have been occasions where I have worked on projects which I really haven't enjoyed. That will happen from time to time, but the best thing to do is to learn from them, understand why you didn't like it and what elements of your character were not suited to it. Then you can make more informed decisions as you progress throughout your career.

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