Here is a set of working definitions for the four levels of project management hierarchy.

The base level of project management is the project. A project manager balances the tasks and the priorities of the tasks within a given project.

The next level of is a collection of projects with a similar theme, the program. A program manager balances the projects and their priorities within the program. A program manager may also project manage the projects, and/or have project managers report to the program manager.

The next level is a collection of projects and/or programs into a portfolio. A portfolio manager balances the programs and their priorities within the portfolio. The portfolio manager may have project and program responsibilities in addition to their portfolio duties, and may have project and/or program managers report to the portfolio manager.

The top level is the governance level. The lead person responsible for the PMO balances the portfolios and their priorities. There are a variety of governance models and governance bodies that can be brought to bear at any, multiple or just certain level(s).

Smaller organizations may just have the governance and project levels, and governance may be informal, or through the organizational hierarchy depicted in the org chart.

Medium size organizations may need to grow into a program and/or portfolio level depending on the size and complexity of the PMO governance.

Large organizations benefit from the full four-tiered approach.

Each organization will do it differently, depending on how they forecast, plan and budget their project dollars in their annual cycles.

Project, Program, Portfolio, Governance. The four levels of Project Management Hierarchy. Know them well and use them wisely.

 

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