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Management Consulting, Business & Admin careers

Management: Project, Programme, Portfolio & Enterprise

The structure of project, programme, portfolio and enterprise management

The principles of management really do go back through the ages. From the time of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and Machiavelli’s The Prince, a variety of management theories have been put forward as a way to achieve certain goals. Although there are many different views on management style, approach and delivery, a common structure exists across the board that relates to the differing sizes of workloads that need to be managed.

Broadly speaking, the smallest kind of business process management is ‘project management’. This is then outweighed by ‘portfolio management’, ‘programme management’, and finally, ‘enterprise management’.

Organisations constantly need to manage an ever-burgeoning number of business initiatives as they grow and develop. The four key managerial disciplines in the title of this subsector have arisen from the need to define a structure for handling such a huge amount of projects.

What does a project manager do?

The fundamentals of management are always concerned with accomplishing a particular goal. When you are working in management though, your day-to-day activities are often dependent on what kind of managerial function you have and your level of responsibility. For example, if you are project manager, you will be responsible for managing low-level business processes and directly managing administrative and operational staff.

If you’re looking to work as a project manager, you will always be working on temporary endeavours. By definition, you will go from project to project and unique goals and objectives will be introduced each time.

What does a portfolio or programme manager do?

Portfolio and programme management are closely related and both differ from project management because they involve managing a selection of projects simultaneously. For example, if you are creating a website that requires development (project one), editorial content (project two) and marketing (project three), you’ve got yourself a portfolio or programme of work that needs to be managed. Often, the difference between portfolio management and programme management is that programme managers tend to directly man-manage project managers, and portfolio managers don’t.

Rather than managing operational staff and other non-managers, programme managers are responsible for managing the progress of projects; it’s their responsibility to manage the managers. Essentially, they rely on the reporting functions of the project managers, and this same dynamic applies when we move up to enterprise management, as enterprise managers rely in a very similar way on the programme managers.

What does an enterprise manager do?

The biggest challenge open to a manager, though, is enterprise management. This is the process by which an entire organisation’s operations are managed effectively. Here, you will effectively be required to manage a large selection of programmes.

It is highly unlikely that you will begin your managerial career as a programme or enterprise manager. Most people who start off in this line of work will begin their careers in administrative roles, or as an assistant or junior project manager.

Career progression as a project, programme, portfolio or enterprise manager...

As their careers develop, many project, portfolio, programme and enterprise managers will forgo the option of permanent work and become independent contractors. This allows them to have more flexibility in their careers and they are often paid a huge amount more for contract roles. However, whilst contracting can be lucrative, it can lack the job security of a permanent role and the other perks such as holiday and sick pay.

So if you think you can manage all that, your next project is to check out the job profiles for project, programme, portfolio and enterprise management and apply to management jobs!

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