What is Project Management? Definition and Fundamentals

What is Project Management?

To answer the question What is Project Management?, let us first understand the project management definition. “A project is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” The project management definition may also be given as, “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to bring about successful results and meet the project requirements.”

It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that project management techniques are applied and followed. Project managers must not only strive to meet specific scope, time, cost, and quality requirements of projects, they must also facilitate the entire process to meet the needs and expectations of the people involved in or affected by project activities. Project management is a process that includes initiating a new project, planning, putting the project plan into action, and measuring progress and performance. It involves identifying the project requirements, establishing project objectives, balancing constraints, and taking the needs and expectations of the key stakeholders into consideration. Planning is one of the most important functions you’ll perform during the course of a project. It sets the standard for the remainder of the project’s life and is used to track future project performance.

Managing a project typically includes, but is not limited to:

  • Identifying requirements;
  • Addressing the various needs, concerns, and expectations of the stakeholders in planning and executing the project.
  • Setting up, maintaining, and carrying out communications among stakeholders that are active, effective, and collaborative in nature.
  • Managing stakeholders towards meeting project requirements and creating project deliverables.

Balancing the competing project constraints, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Time.
  • Scope.
  • Quality.
  • Schedule.
  • Budget.
  • Resources.
  • Risks.

Project Management Definition and Fundamental Concepts

Consider the following scenario:

You work for a wireless phone provider and the VP of marketing approaches you with a fabulous idea—“fabulous” because he’s the big boss and because he thought it up. He wants to set up kiosks in local grocery and big-box stores as mini-offices. These offices will offer customers the ability to sign up for new wireless phone services, make their wireless phone bill payments, and purchase equipment and accessories. He believes that the exposure in grocery stores will increase awareness of the company’s offerings.

After all, everyone has to eat, right? He told you that the board of directors has already cleared the project, and he’ll dedicate as many resources to this as he can. He wants the new kiosks in place in 12 stores by the end of this year. The best news is he has assigned you to head up this project. Your first question should be “Is it a project?”

The temporary nature of projects indicates that a project has a definite beginning and end. The end is reached when the project’s objectives have been achieved or when the project is terminated because its objectives will not or cannot be met, or when the need for the project no longer exists. A project may also be terminated if the client (customer, sponsor, or champion) wishes to terminate the project. Temporary does not necessarily mean the duration of the project is short. It refers to the project’s engagement and its longevity. Temporary does not typically apply to the product, service, or result created by the project; most projects are undertaken to create a lasting outcome. For example, a project to build a national monument will create a result expected to last for centuries.

Every project creates a unique product, service, or result. The outcome of the project may be tangible or intangible. Although repetitive elements may be present in some project deliverables and activities, this repetition does not change the fundamental, unique characteristics of the project work. For example, office buildings can be constructed with the same or similar materials and by the same or different teams. However, each building project remains unique with a different location, different design, different circumstances and situations, different stakeholders, and so on.

what is project management


What is Project Management - Understanding through Examples of Projects:

Projects can be large or small and involve one person or thousands of people. They can be done in one day or take years to complete. Examples of projects include the following:

  • A young couple hires a firm to design and build them a new house.
  • A retail store manager works with employees to display a new clothing line.
  • A college campus upgrades its technology infrastructure to provide wireless Internet access.
  • A construction company designs and constructs a new office building for a client.
  • A school implements new government standards for tracking student achievement.
  • A pharmaceutical company launches a new drug
  • A television network develops a system to allow viewers to vote for contestants and provide other feedback on programs.
  • The auto-mobile industry develops standards to streamline procurement.

Project Attributes

As you can see, projects come in all shapes and sizes. The following attributes help to define a project further:

  • A project has a unique purpose. Every project should have a well-defined objective. For example, many people hire firms to design and build a new house, but each house, like each person, is unique.
  • A project is temporary. A project has a definite beginning and a definite end. For a home construction project, owners usually have a date in mind when they’d like to move into their new home.
  • A project is developed using progressive elaboration or in an iterative fashion. Projects are often defined broadly when they begin, and as time passes, the specific details of the project become clearer. For example, there are many decisions that must be made in planning and building a new house. It works best to draft preliminary plans for owners to approve before more detailed plans are developed.
  • A project requires resources, often from various areas. Resources include people, hardware, software, or other assets. Many different types of people, skill sets, and resources are needed to build a home.
  • A project should have a primary customer or sponsor. Most projects have many interested parties or stakeholders, but someone must take the primary role of sponsorship. The project sponsor usually provides the direction and funding for the project.
  • A project involves uncertainty. Because every project is unique, it is sometimes difficult to define the project’s objectives clearly, estimate exactly how long it will take to complete, or determine how much it will cost. External factors also cause uncertainty, such as a supplier going out of business or a project team member needing unplanned time off. Uncertainty is one of the main reasons project management is so challenging, because uncertainty invokes risk.

The lecture giving project management definition and explaining What is Project Management? is taken from the lectures that students study at AIMS' project management academy. The programs offered by AIMS includes project management degree, online diploma in project management and certified project manager programs.

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