What is a project? What is a program?

A project is a way of organizing resource. It is a group of individuals who are assembled to perform different tasks on a common set of objectives for a defined period of time. 1 Projects need a leader who can define the work objectives and criteria for success and recruit staff from all relevant areas of expertise. The need to organize a project is most apparent when more than two departments contribute resource at the same time.

Once a project is formed the participating departments often find it useful to organize data generated by its staff using project identifiers that have been created for the project. Organizing data by project identifiers is critical if the data is to be shared outside of the department. Project related data should never be discarded (See Project History).

The Project Management Institute distinguishes between a project and a program as follows: “Programs have a larger scope (than projects) and provide more significant benefits.” 2 Some bio/pharmaceutical companies distinguish efforts in discovery from development on the following basis.

Discovery efforts are often considered programs because they tend to give rise to multiple clinical candidates which are organized into a set of development projects.

There can be some confusion with nomenclature. It is important that senior managers articulate the terminology used within the organization.

In this discussion, the differences between programs and projects are sufficiently few that in this discussion all such efforts will be considered projects.

  1. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) Fourth Edition, p. 434, 2008 
  2. Section 1.3, The Standard for Portfolio Management, 2nd Ed. p. 6, Project Management Institute, 2008 

This page may also be found at this link in our website Project Leader Solutions.