A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. Every project has a definite beginning and definite end. And each product or service that is created is different in some distinguishing way from all similar products or services.
There are many different types of projects depending on the industry and scope of activities. Some examples:
- Developing a new product or service,
- Effecting a change in structure, staffing, or style of an organization,
- Designing computer software, such as a materials management (inventory) system, a claim processing system, or an accounting system.
Project management is much more than just scheduling. It involves balancing many different components, which project managers organize into nine knowledge areas.
A typical project starts with someone having an idea, or by an idea emerging through discussion. The idea then gains acceptance from a wider group: probably informally through discussion with colleagues and then through a more formal process involving senior management, the management committee or Board. This leads to a fund-raising process, which usually causes significant delay, and then, if the funding bid is successful the project can start, staff can be appointed and work can begin. This work has to be planned and managed, problems dealt with, until the project concludes, hopefully successfully, and is wound up.
Formal methods of Project Management provide a framework to manage this process, providing a series of elements - templates and procedures to manage the project through its life cycle. The key elements consist of:
- Defining the project accurately, systematically clarifying objectives.
- Dividing the project up into manageable tasks and stages.
- Controlling the projects through its stages using the project definition as a baseline.
- Highlighting risks and developing specific procedures to deal with them
- Providing mechanisms to deal with quality issues
- Clarifying roles to provide the basis for effective teamwork.