This lesson aims to define in detail the differences among three concepts that are often confused in the world of Project Management: project, program and portfolio. Starting with the project, we can easily define it as a set of activities to achieve a unique output in compliance with time and cost constraints. In organizational terms, we can say that the project managers responsibility is to make things happen. Therefore, he will be responsible for delivering the output in compliance with the constraints. However, in modern project management, we can underline how this responsibility is often simplified in saying that the Project Manager is responsible for customer satisfaction. This means that the person who commissioned and financed the project must be satisfied. Obviously, his satisfaction will derive from the achievement of the goal and the compliance with the constraints. However, with this definition of responsibility, we want to emphasize that the customer could be satisfied even if the output is not the one initially agreed and if times and costs are greater than the ones estimated at the beginning. Obviously, this is true under the hypothesis that it was the customer to change his mind and cause extra costs and delays compared to the plan. In other words, the project managers objective is to satisfy the client, whether internal or external, also managing the changes in scope during the project, and always guaranteeing profitability. Let’s move on to the second word, program. By program we mean a set of projects. Anyway, it is crucial to note that having many projects is necessary, but is not sufficient, condition to have a program. When an organization manages multiple parallel projects, it must recognize that these projects will seldom be completely independent. In the simplest case, the projects will compete for the use of resources, for example, for budget, human or material resources. However, in these cases, we will not refer to program management but to multi project management. Multi-PM will be managed by assigning the resources according to the projects priority and the organization will manage this priority. For example, many consulting firms have functions dedicated to staffing resources on different projects. Therefore, to have a program, projects must interact in terms of outputs, not only in terms of input and resources. In other words, the value of a project must depend (at least partially) on what happens on other projects. The organization of a major event such as the international exhibition is an example. Let's imagine that this event foresees carrying out 100 independent projects, such as the creation of pavilions, the creation of common areas, the creation of all associated services, etc. Imagine now that the day of opening 99 projects have been completed successfully. We might believe that the program has performed well. However, if we discover that the uncompleted project is the one delivering the entrances to the exhibition area, we should recognize that the value generated by the remaining 99 projects is almost null. All the other projects, indeed, will create real value only if the last one is completed as well. This simple example shows how, within a program, the different projects must be balanced to maximize the final value. Therefore, the program manager is not involved in obtaining the results of individual projects but maximizing the value of the program as a whole. The program manager is called upon to make decisions that would be absolutely impossible at a single project level. For example, imagine we are developing a new wearable wristband for diabetic patients. The program has three interdependent projects: the hardware the bracelet software and the smartphone application that will allow input/output activities by the user and the service's fruition. Imagine that the first two projects are one month ahead of schedule, while the application one is six months behind schedule. The project managers of the three projects will try to do their best, and even those who are already ahead of schedule will try to further improve their performance over time. On the other hand, this effort is absolutely useless because the product can only be launched on the market when the third project is completed as well. In this simple case, the program manager could decide to remove resources from the first two projects to accelerate the third one and launch the new product as soon as possible. The program manager's role is to maximize the value generated through the program by balancing projects in terms of scope and resources. There are various reasons why projects can be linked in terms of output. In some cases, as in the international exhibition or the wearable wristband cases, there is a generation of value that depends on the outputs of all the projects. In other cases, the output of a project may be an input for another, such as developing a new hybrid engine for the launch of a new line of cars. Finally, projects can be mostly independent in a program but all addressing the same customer. In this case, the overall customer satisfaction could be compromised by the poor performance on even a single project. This is the reason why service companies often define a key account manager for important customers. Together with Projects and Programs, the third level that we will analyze is portfolio management. The portfolio of a company, or a business unit, can be defined as a set of programs and projects. The goal of the portfolio manager has a more strategic nature than the other two. The portfolio manager's role is to decide which projects and programs are to be funded and which are not. The correct management of a company's portfolio makes it possible to implement the company strategy. Under the hypothesis that the company strategy foresees changes to what has been done so far (for example, launching new products, changing the market positioning or quoting on the stock exchange), these changes require the implementation of specific projects and programs to be achieved. As companies manage limited resources, it will not be possible to fund all the initiatives. The portfolio manager's responsibility is to define which projects and programs to allocate resources to effectively and efficiently implement the strategy. Therefore, there is a big difference between the management of projects, programs, and portfolios both in terms of managed object and in terms of the objectives and responsibilities of the managers responsible for them. Often, part of the confusion existing between these three roles and their responsibilities stems from the fact that the same person can simultaneously cover different functions. I could be the one who decides which financial initiatives to implement and also manage some of them directly in the terms of projects or programs. In this case, it is crucial to clearly understand the objectives and responsibilities of the role I’m covering when making any decision. Finally, I would like to highlight that at least two of these dimensions are always present in any organization: the projects and the portfolio. In every company, there is a strategy, the need to allocate resources consistently and to manage these resources to obtain results. On the other hand, the program dimension does not always exist but is only activated as technical, managerial, or market complexity increases.