What is Project Management?

What is project management? A project is a time-limited initiative that starts and ends with the goal of producing a distinctive product, service, or outcome. Unlike ongoing operations, projects have a clear timeline, are not permanent, and are aimed at achieving a specific objective.

Projects come in all shapes and sizes, from small to large, and can be straightforward or multifaceted. They can be led by an individual, a team, or an organization, and can take place in any environment. Despite their varying characteristics, all projects share common attributes.

  • Each project consists of a start, a finish, and a scope. At the outset, the initiation phase defines and plans the project. Once the project’s objectives are met and the work is completed, the completion phase closes the project. The project’s scope comprises all the necessary work to achieve the project’s objectives.
  • Every project has specific requirements that need to be fulfilled. These are the needs or expectations that the project must meet to be considered successful. The three types of requirements are functional, non-functional, and technical. Functional requirements are those that are visible to users, such as ease of use. Non-functional requirements are those that are not directly related to the project’s functionality, such as timelines or budget constraints. Technical requirements relate to the project’s technical aspects, such as programming language or hardware requirements.
  • Apart from requirements, projects also have constraints. Constraints are the factors that restrict the project’s scope and execution. Constraints can be internal or external. Internal constraints are the factors within the project team’s control, such as budget, time, or resources. External constraints are the factors outside the project team’s control, such as government regulations or industry standards.
  • Risks are an inherent part of every project, representing the potential problems or challenges that could hinder the project’s success. Risks may arise from internal or external sources. Internal risks are those that are within the project team’s control, such as the risks related to their skills and expertise. External risks are those that are beyond the project team’s control, such as risks related to the market, regulatory changes, or natural disasters.
  • Projects demand resources to accomplish its objectives. These resources include people, materials, equipment, or other assets that are necessary for the project. Resources can be categorized into three groups, human, material, or financial. Human resources consist of people who are essential for the project, such as the project manager, developers, or testers. Material resources include the hardware, software, or tools that are needed for the project. Financial resources refer to the funds that are required for the project, such as the project budget.
  • Projects are also managed through processes, which are a series of tasks or steps that must be executed in order to successfully complete the project. These processes can be classified into two main types: linear and non-linear. Linear processes are those that are carried out in a step-by-step, sequential manner, following a set order of tasks, as in the traditional waterfall model. Non-linear processes, on the other hand, are those that are iterative, flexible, and adaptive to changes in the project’s requirements or objectives, as in the agile model.
  • Finally, projects are also defined by their stakeholders. Stakeholders refer to the individuals or groups that have a direct or indirect interest in the project. These stakeholders can be internal or external. Internal stakeholders are those who are within the project team or organization and have a direct influence on the project’s success, such as the project sponsor or team members. External stakeholders are those who are outside of the project team or organization but may still have a significant impact on the project’s outcome, such as customers, suppliers, or the community.

A project is a non-permanent initiative that has a clear start and end point, and aims to produce a unique product, service, or outcome. It differs from ongoing operations as it is time-bound and aims to achieve a specific result. Projects can vary in size and complexity, but they all share certain features, including a defined beginning and end, a scope, requirements, constraints, risks, resources, processes, and stakeholders.

Project management can be approached as a process with four major phases, which we will elaborate on in the next section.