Series on Categorizing Projects and Programs: Categorizing Programs


By Alan Stretton

Sydney, Australia



This is the second of a series of four working/discussion papers on categorizing projects and programs. The context of these papers is overall categorizations as they have appeared in the literature. These currently vary widely, and this series is concerned with exploring possibilities for bringing them closer together.

The first paper (Stretton 2014f) focused on project categorizations, most of which were found to be a mixture of industrial/ social sectors (Application Sectors) in which projects are undertaken (e.g. aerospace, defence), and types of projects (Project Types) which are undertaken in many, if not most, of these Application Sectors (e.g. IT projects, R&D projects). This second paper focuses on program categorizations, where it finds a similar mixture. The components of two prominent program categorizations are re-allocated into Application Sectors and Program Types, and presented as a matrix which illustrates the intersections between Program Types and the various Application Sectors in which they are undertaken.

This paper also identifies five Program Types which are virtually identical to the five key Project Types that emerged from the first paper. This leads to amalgamating these common elements, which are described as key Program/Project Types.


There have been comparatively few categorizations in the literature specific to programs. I attempted one in Stretton 2009b, which was broadly based on listings in Japan’s P2M (PMAJ 2008), which are the most complete I have come across. P2M has two major listings, namely Types of Programs, and P2M Application Areas. As will be seen, both contain a mixture of Program Types and Application Sectors.

P2M defines a program as “an undertaking in which a group of projects for achieving a project mission are organically combined”. This is much the same as Maylor et al 2006, who say that programs “involve the coordinated management of a series of interconnected projects and other non-project work, for the delivery of a specific package of benefits”. The slightly more precise latter definition is adopted here.


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Editor’s note: This series of articles on the categorization of projects and programs is by Alan Stretton, PhD (Hon), Life Fellow of AIPM (Australia), a pioneer in the field of professional project management and one of the most widely recognized voices in the practice of program and project management.   Long retired, Alan is still accepting some of the most challenging research and writing assignments; he is a frequent contributor to the PM World Journal. See his author profile below

About the Author

alan strettonAlan Stretton, PhD     flag-australia 

Faculty Corps, University of Management

and Technology, Arlington, VA (USA)

Life Fellow, AIPM (Australia)

Alan Stretton is one of the pioneers of modern project management. He is currently a member of the Faculty Corps for the University of Management & Technology (UMT), USA. In 2006 he retired from a position as Adjunct Professor of Project Management in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), Australia, which he joined in 1988 to develop and deliver a Master of Project Management program.   Prior to joining UTS, Mr. Stretton worked in the building and construction industries in Australia, New Zealand and the USA for some 38 years, which included the project management of construction, R&D, introduction of information and control systems, internal management education programs and organizational change projects. He has degrees in Civil Engineering (BE, Tasmania) and Mathematics (MA, Oxford), and an honorary PhD in strategy, programme and project management (ESC, Lille, France). Alan was Chairman of the Standards (PMBOK) Committee of the Project Management Institute (PMI®) from late 1989 to early 1992. He held a similar position with the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), and was elected a Life Fellow of AIPM in 1996. He was a member of the Core Working Group in the development of the Australian National Competency Standards for Project Management. He has published over 140 professional articles and papers. Alan can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Alan Stretton, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/alan-stretton/.