4Ps of management have a lot in common – they require organizational and interpersonal skills, as well as flexibility and the ability to motivate a team. But what is hidden under the four letters P?

4Ps of management – table of contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. 4Ps – Project, product, program, portfolio
  3. Project management
  4. Product management
  5. Program management
  6. Portfolio management
  7. Summary


Smaller companies often implement a single project or create a single product. In such cases, these are the only goals of the organization. However, when the company grows, its strategy requires a broader outlook for the future and its goals diversify, it is worth considering how best to organize project management to make its implementation as efficient as possible.

4Ps – Project, product, program, and portfolio

4Ps stand for slightly different, often interrelated groups of tasks. These are:

  • project
  • product
  • program
  • portfolio

Below, let’s take a closer look at what these are and why it’s important to know their specifics when getting down to planning, organizing tasks and executing a project.

4Ps of management

Project management

Each project can be carried out independently. It can also feature as a part of a program or portfolio. It has a designated beginning and end, and its goal is to produce a unique product, service or another result.

Characteristic features of the project include:

  • specified start and end time
  • defined objective
  • a temporary team set up specifically to carry out this task

Many Project Managers handle multiple projects simultaneously. This is especially true for projects belonging to a single program or portfolio. But how is a project different from a product?

Product management

Product management differs from project management primarily because there is no set time frame. Product Managers must know well the product they oversee and plan its development. They set priorities, add new features, improve existing ones as well as manage the product development budget by balancing the company’s capabilities and customer expectations.

We can distinguish a product from a project by thinking of it as a permanent, physical object. This is because a product maintains a constant identity even though it undergoes adjustments. A product could be a smartphone that changes depending on installed applications and how it has been personalized.

Unlike a project, a product does not have a defined life cycle. Product management is therefore characterized by:

  • continuous improvement in response to changing customer needs
  • continuity
  • adaptation planning
  • working with a permanent product development team

A product can get developed through projects – temporary and implemented over a while. Going back to the example with the smartphone, a product development project could include a software update to make it easier to use the camera at night.

Program management

According to the PMBOK, the program is:

A collection of related projects, and sometimes smaller programs, that are managed together to build value that managing each one separately could not deliver. (En version: “Program. Related projects, subsidiary programs, and program activities managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits not available from managing them individually.”)

Project and product management involves planning, organizing and executing tasks that are part of the organization’s profile and lead to the realization of a goal that is useful to the customer or the company itself. Program management, on the other hand, involves determining which projects need to be implemented in the organization to achieve one of the strategic goals effectively and on time. It is medium-term planning that decides what priority to give to each project, as well as the ongoing determination of what the relationship between them should be.

Let’s consider the example of the “New Company Branch” Program. It may consist of:

  • Project A, to select the location and furnish the new headquarters of the
  • Project B, to employ a team in the new city
  • Project C, to organize a company housewarming party
  • Project D, to build a local customer base

Among other things, program management must take into account the timing of projects A, B and C. Managing each project without knowing the status of the others could end up, for example, with organizing a housewarming party when the headquarters renovation has not been completed, or… the team has not yet been hired.

Each of the projects that make up the program is implemented separately, and their results depend on the tasks performed, which carry different risks. Therefore, the main differences between project and program management are related to the perspective of results evaluation, and the approach to variability. These are:

  • Assumed acceptance of the uncertainty of results
  • The need for effective change management
  • Careful adjustment of priorities to the current status of each project
  • A long-term perspective in evaluating the program’s benefits.

Portfolio management

The project portfolio is a term used somewhat less frequently than a program but the separation of a portfolio of projects in a company is particularly useful when we periodically implement projects of a similar nature. The finalization of individual projects belonging to the portfolio is not dependent on each other, as is the case with a program.

For example, for a company that develops software for smartphones, separate portfolios can be projects implementing:

  • updates, e.g:
  • camera software updates,
  • security updates to protect against various types of attacks,
  • software enhancements, e.g:
  • allowing the user to choose skins and icons,
  • adding 3 features most frequently suggested by users,
  • refactoring, e.g.:
  • improving the code of modular parts of the application,
  • rewriting the code that places the most strain on the device.

A portfolio is a centralized collection of projects and programs underway in a company. Their management is primarily aimed at achieving the organization’s strategic goals. Like projects and programs, the portfolio should detail:

  • milestones – to have a clear picture of sub-goals, their achievement, and a plan for dealing with failure,
  • a risk management plan,
  • stakeholders – i.e., all those interested in the status of portfolio implementation

However, the most important aspect of the company’s project portfolio management is to establish a prioritization scheme. It ensures that all projects, products, programs and portfolios implemented and planned in the company get their place in the hierarchy of tasks to be completed.

What are the differences between the 4Ps?

The management of each of the 4Ps – project, product, program and portfolio – differs in certain respects. Particularly important are the differences in the areas of management subject and the nature of the team.

Management subjects in the 4Ps differ due to the level of detail of the tasks performed and the proximity to the customer.

In the case of a project, the Project Manager and Product Manager oversee the execution of tasks and the creation of solutions aimed directly at the customer. In the case of a program, related projects and their relationships are the subject of management. In a portfolio, management is concerned with all the programs and projects in the organization concerning its objectives, so the Portfolio Manager’s role and tasks are located the furthest from the customer.

However, his or her tasks should still center around the relationship between the organization’s mission, goals and the needs of the clients.

The differences between the 4Ps also apply to the team. In a project, the team is established for the duration of a given project, so project implementation is often only part of the responsibilities of the participants.

The situation is different in the case of a product – here a permanent team is built, whose main and often only task is to work on the product. This reduces the risk of downtime between projects developing the product. The need for knowledge transfer, i.e. time-consuming implementation of new team members, is also less frequent.

Teams managed by Program and Portfolio Managers, on the other hand, are co-created by Project and Product Managers from across the organization, as well as analysts, consultants and high-level business specialists.


The 4Ps consist of project, product, program and portfolio management. Management of each differs in detail, nature of the team, and responsibilities.

A project is an underlying, time-bound endeavor with a specific duration and purpose. A product can be developed through projects, but it has no defined life cycle and its development is closely tied to customer expectations. A program is a collection of interrelated projects of different types that serve a common purpose. A portfolio can be defined as a collection of projects of the same type, carried out cyclically or in parallel, serving to align all other Ps with the organization’s strategic goals in the best possible way.

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4Ps of management: project, product, program and portfolio | #24 Getting started with project management caroline becker avatar 1background

Author: Caroline Becker

As a Project Manager, Caroline is an expert in finding new methods to design the best workflows and optimize processes. Her organizational skills and ability to work under time pressure make her the best person to turn complicated projects into reality.

The most important questions

  1. Do small and medium-sized companies maintain programs and portfolios?

    The complexity of the structure of projects and the relationships between them depends not only on the size of the organization but also on the specifics of its business. As a general rule, it is better to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy and add more layers of management where it is not necessary. Still, even when working in a small company, it is worth realizing that project and product management is scalable and beneficial from a strategic perspective.

  2. What does product management depend on?

    The method of product management depends primarily on the current identification of customer needs. Since they change dynamically, the most common product management methods are agile.

Getting started with project management:

  1. What is a project?
  2. What is project management?
  3. How to manage projects?
  4. Project management methods
  5. Types of projects
  6. 4 examples of projects
  7. Prioritization of projects
  8. Areas of project activity
  9. Definition of success in project management
  10. Why use project management software?
  11. How to choose the best project management software?
  12. Overview of project management software
  13. Project life cycle
  14. What is the project vision for?
  15. Project goal. What is it and how to define it well?
  16. Project initiation phase - what to pay attention to?
  17. The domain of planning in project management
  18. What is a project schedule and what is it for?
  19. How to use milestones in a project?
  20. Project execution
  21. How to prepare a successful project contingency plan?
  22. Importance of project closure
  23. Project failure. 5 reasons why projects fail
  24. 4Ps of management: project, product, program and portfolio
  25. Most important tasks and responsibilities of the Project Manager
  26. Most useful project manager skills
  27. How to become a project manager?
  28. 5 books every project manager should read
  29. How to set up a project team?
  30. Work breakdown structure - how to delegate work in a project?
  31. How to lead a team during hybrid work?
  32. Challenges project managers face when working with a team
  33. Types of project meetings
  34. Project monitoring. What parameters to watch?
  35. How to write a compelling
  36. How to define the scope of a project and avoid scope creep?
  37. Feasibility study – can we implement this project?
  38. Risk analysis in projects and tools to facilitate it
  39. How to create a project charter?
  40. What is a stakeholder register?
  41. Gantt chart in project management planning
  42. How to create a project budget?
  43. Time management in project
  44. How to create a project risk register?
  45. Project risk management strategies
  46. Project marketing
  47. Sources and areas of change in the project
  48. Project management change models
  49. What's after Agile? Methods in project management