What is a project?
A project is a temporary venture that exists to produce a defined outcome. Each project will have agreed and unique objectives as well as its own project plan, budget, timescale, deliverables and tasks. A project may also involve people from different teams within an organization who are brought together to accomplish a specific goal.
What is project management?
Project management can be defined as the discipline of applying specific processes and principles to initiate, plan, execute and manage the way that new initiatives or changes are implemented within an organization. Project management is different to management of business as usual activity, which is an ongoing process, as it involves creating new work packages to achieve agreed ends or goals.
Key components of project management are:
- Time – the intended duration of the work
- Cost – the budget allocated for the work
- Scope – what innovations or changes will be delivered by the project
- Quality – the standard of the outcome of the project.
Increasing or decreasing any one of these components will affect the others.
For example, reducing the time allocated to complete the project will also reduce the amount of work that can be done (scope), which may then affect the quality and the cost of the project.
Project management stages
Although there are different project management methodologies and approaches, most projects follow these stages:
- Initiating the project – the project manager defines what the project will achieve and realize, working with the project sponsor and stakeholders to agree deliverables.
- Planning – the project manager records all the tasks and assigns deadlines for each as well as stating the relationships and dependencies between each activity.
- Execution – the project manager builds the project team and also collects and allocates the resources and budget available to specific tasks.
- Monitoring – the project manager oversees the progress of project work and updates the project plans to reflect actual performance.
- Closing – the project manager ensures the outputs delivered by the project are accepted by the business and closes down the project team.
Project management approaches
There are different techniques and processes that can be used to manage projects. These include AXELOS’ PRINCE2®, which is a structured project management methodology that can be tailored to fit any size or type of project.
Agile and Lean project management are also widely practised and allow a more flexible approach to projects.
Project manager responsibilities
Project management is recognized as a distinct business function within an organization and project managers have a specific role in and responsibilities for realizing their projects’ aims. The project manager will define and run the project, lead the project team and decide how to approach the work based on factors including the type of project, the business’ needs and the expertise of colleagues working on the project.
Project manager skills
Project managers are responsible for realizing the projects they work on, so they need a wide range of skills including good verbal and written communication, leadership, planning, problem solving, time management and negotiation. As the project manager role now goes beyond basic implementation of the project plan, they also need good customer relations and business skills in addition to their traditional capabilities.
How to become a project manager
AXELOS has a range of project management tools and templates, including Business Case and Project Initiation Documentation templates, as well as information about the PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile® best practices.
You can use our Career Path tool to see how the role of project manager would enable you to advance your career and what skills you would need to succeed.
You can also learn more about our PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile project management certifications and access PRINCE2 Foundation, PRINCE2 Practitioner and PRINCE2 Agile sample papers to test your project management knowledge.