Exploring the Differences between a Project and a Program

Distinguish between a project and a program.

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Many of the tools and processes are the same between a project and a program. One major difference is scope. In this case, there is the program scope, which has its own set of requirements in the form of the program goals. These requirements are relayed down to the projects that impact them. Though I’ve been referencing the Windows Rollout Project, these requirements could easily have been for any of the other platforms.

When starting the program, you need to refine the goals in the same way you refine the project requirements. Earlier, we stated the Mercury program’s goal is to have a P2P messaging application with a 90% user reach. This is an okay goal with enough wiggle room to assume success, but from a requirement standpoint, it’s too vague. What is user reach? How do we measure 90% of that?

There are also technical issues with this statement. Let’s say that the user base means all users of a given platform. The P2P network would span across the world, and thus across physical and logical networks. Many devices that have access to the internet do not have a public-facing IP address, meaning there is no way to form a direct connection from one device to another when they are on different networks. A relay would be needed to—at the very least—route the call between the devices. This can be done in such a way that the traffic is unreadable by the relay and it is a dumb router, which would satisfy most information security (InfoSec) teams at large tech firms. However, this loosely goes against the requirement of no centralized system.

Even if we talk about a private installation of this program for an enterprise client, their network is likely large enough for internal network segmentation that also requires a relay. If the relays were also installed on the local network, they would need to be maintained and essentially centralized. The relays could be public and maintained by the Mercury program corporation, but this would force traffic out of the network to travel across network segments.

As you can see, just by probing a bit into two words in the goal, we uncovered several potential issues that the program will need to address before the projects can start their work.

Let’s look a bit closer at some of the aspects of plan management that may require some different strategies.


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