What Is Project Management?

How does a project differ from other human activities and what is involved in managing a project?

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How a Project Is Different

What is a project and how is it distinguished from other activities that go on in a business? A project is happening when a number of people are organized to deliver a new product or service within a given timeframe and budget. So, producing a monthly report is not a project if the same report is produced month after month. However, if a new report needs to be designed with ideas from a range of senior managers and requiring technical work from information technology experts and all done within 15,000 dollars and by the next reporting period – well, that's a project.

Project Disciplines and Project Phases

We see managing a well-run project as being similar to driving a racing car. Sure, you can try and get to the finish line as fast as you can by getting in the car and putting your foot flat to the board and leaving it there. If you did this, you will quickly find out that you will either crash into a barrier, rollover over on the first bend or burn out your engine or tires. Many project managers we see approach projects just like that.

On the other hand, a disciplined racing car driver will go through a process. First, they will assess the track, then fine-tune the car to suit the track. Next, they will organize the pit crew and perform final checks on the car. Only then will they get in the car and drive. Even here there is a process that needs to be followed if success is to be achieved. First there is the warm up phase, then the car is paced carefully throughout most of the race, and finally comes the controlled dash for the finish line.

These project management phases are typically labeled the project initiation, planning, execution and, finally, the evaluation phase. As well as progressing through a number of project management phases, the job of managing a project consists of a number of project management disciplines. These disciplines involve the project manager in properly managing stakeholders and the project team, identifying and controlling project risks and project issues, managing project tasks and resources, controlling project changes and delivering on the expected quality outputs. Check out our Project Management Glossary for definitions of other common project management terms.

Expert View Author: AIMM MAITD

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Find out more about the principles and methods of project management with our introductory guide. You will find it packed with a set of the most useful project templates for you to start using straight away.

A Guide to Project Management

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A Guide to Project Management

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A Guide to Project Management

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