What is Project Management?
What is a project?
A project is a temporary venture that exists to produce a defined outcome that leads to the achievement of intended benefits (value). Each project will have agreed and unique objectives as well as its own budget, schedule, deliverables (products) and tasks. A project typically involves people from different parts of an organization who are brought together to accomplish a specific goal.
There are five characteristics of a project that distinguish it from business as usual (or operational work):
- change: projects are the means by which we introduce change
- temporary: projects are temporary in nature and have a defined start and a defined end
- cross-functional: a project involves a team of people with different skills and works across the usual functional divisions within an organization or, sometimes, across different organizations
- unique: each project will differ from others in a certain way. This can mean a different team, customer, supplier, product, location, or timeframe
- uncertainty: the characteristics listed above will introduce uncertainty and make projects riskier than any operational aspects of an organization.
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 product or products to achieve agreed business objectives.
Project management involves the planning, delegating, monitoring and controlling of all aspects of the project, and motivating those involved to achieve the project objectives.
Key aspects that should be managed throughout a project are:
- Time – the intended duration of the work
- Cost – the budget allocated for the work
- Scope – what will be delivered by the project
- Quality – the characteristics of the project’s outputs
- Risk – what uncertainties the project entails
- Benefits – how organization will benefit from the project’s products
- Sustainability – how the project will impact the environment and other sustainability aspects.
Increasing or decreasing any one of these components will affect the others.
For example, reducing the time allocated to complete the project, with an intent to achieve more benefits sooner, will also reduce the amount of work that can be done (scope), which may then affect the quality and the cost of the project, bring new risks, and have impact on sustainability targets.
Project management activities
Although there are different project management methods and approaches, most projects follow these groups of management activities:
- Initiating – defining a new project at a high level to obtain authorization to start the project
- Planning – defining the scope, schedule, budget and resources needed to complete the project as well as an approach to manage a project
- Executing – performing the work planned to meet the project objectives
- Monitoring and Controlling – tracking and reviewing the progress of the project and undertaking corrective actions when needed
- Closing – undertaking activities needed to formally complete the project.
Project management approaches
Project manager responsibilities
Project management is recognized as a distinct business function within an organization and project managers have a specific role and responsibilities for realizing their projects’ objectives. The project manager is responsible for day-to-day management of the project: designing plans and other management products, leading the project team, authorizing work packages, monitoring progress against the baseline, responding to risks and issues, and escalating to the higher level of management when needed.
Project manager skills
Project managers are responsible for realizing the projects they work on, so apart from typical project management skills they need a wide range of soft skills including good verbal and written communication, leadership, influencing, problem solving, team building and negotiating. 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.