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Project Management: What Is It?

To understand what is project management, one should understand what is a project.
There is a definition from the  Project Management Institute – a professional organization for Project Managers.

Project – a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.

That′s a bit jargony and vague for our purposes. And, it doesn′t take into account what is happening in business these days, where repetitive jobs are being run like projects. So, let′s take a stab at a more clear definition.

A project has a beginning and an end

That means month end processing could be a project, but sales wouldn′t be one. Another example is marketing campaigns, they are often seen as projects, but selling the products is not.

A project creates something unique

That means developing a new car model is a project, but building an existing car model is not. Maybe a bit more needs to be said here.

If we look at some fairly common projects worldwide, we can see buildings and bridges and airports that are all projects. So, why is every bridge, building and airport unique? There are so many variables that each one needs a tailored design and has specific conditions that apply. So each bridge, building and airport is unique.

To go back to the car example, a new model of care will be unique because it will have new features, new materials, and new regulations to meet. Building the existing models is a repetitive process. But, if the auto company is improving the process of building the existing models, now we have a project.

A project is defined by what it will deliver and what it won′t

This is called  scope – what you will do and what you won′t do – the boundaries of the project. We′ll get into the details of scope later in the book, but example project managers use a lot to describe projects is building or renovation of a house. Let′s look at it from two perspectives: You are doing major renovations yourself on your own time.

What you will or won′t do (scope) is often defined by what you can spend at the time, how much time you have, and how much inconvenience you′ll put up with.

You may have planned to paint the walls in the den and not the ceiling. But, there′s a great deal on lighting when you go to the store, so now you′ve increased your scope to include installing lights and painting the ceiling.

This isn′t a project because there is flexibility in what will be done and decisions are made based on opportunities, not on the overall effect on the project.

You hire a contractor to do the renovations.

The contractor will start with defining exactly what you want to be done, make suggestions about what you need to do, and get you to estimate your budget.

The contractor will come back with an estimate of the timeline and budget. You sign the agreement and you get what you agreed to. Any additions – like a great deal on lighting – will need to be assessed and added to the timeline and the budget.

This is a project.

Project Management in its turn is a process of planning, organizing, securing, and managing resources to bring your project to successful completion.

This is an excerpt from our e-book “Project Management Can Be Easy” , written by Perry Wilson, PMP. The entire  e-book is available for a download  absolutely free.

This post is a part of our on-going  Project Management 101 series.


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