Projects differ from other types of work. A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. These temporary and unique characteristics determine if a particular endeavor is a project.
If an organization determines the nature of the work to be temporary and unique, it may decide to apply project management principles. Managing work by applying the project management standard allows organizations to achieve a set of business objectives more efficiently and effectively.
The temporary nature of projects indicates a definite beginning and definite end. The end is reached when the project's objectives have been achieved, when the project is terminated because its objectives will not or cannot be met, or the need for the project no longer exists. Temporary does not necessarily mean short in duration; many projects last for several years. Temporary does not generally 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 centuries. Projects can also have social, economic, and environmental impacts that far outlast the projects themselves.
The duration of a project is finite. A project's duration can range from a few weeks to several years. It may involve a simple set of activities (such as organizing a picnic) or a very complex effort (such as the design of a new space shuttle). The project team, as a working unit, is created for the sole purpose of accomplishing a project's objectives. When a project attains its objective or it is terminated for some reason, the project reaches its end and the project team is disbanded. Typically, project team members move on to other projects or return to their original organizational assignments. Conversely, teams involved in the other types of work (i.e., non-project but "operational") are not necessarily disbanded when the work achieves its objectives; a new set of objectives is adopted and the work continues.
The unique nature of projects means every project creates a specific product, service, or result that differentiates it from other products, services, or results. Although repetitive elements may be present in some project deliverables, this does not change the fundamental uniqueness of the project work. For example, many office buildings are constructed with the same or similar materials or by the same team, but each facility is unique—with a different design, different location, different contractors, and so on.
An ongoing work effort is generally a stable process because it follows an organization's existing procedures. In contrast, because of the unique nature of projects, there may be uncertainties about the products, services, or results that the project creates. Project tasks can be new to a project team, which necessitates more dedicated planning than other routine work. In addition, projects are undertaken at all organizational levels. A project can involve a single person, a single organizational unit, or multiple organizational units.
A project can create:
• A product that is quantifiable and can be either a component of another item or an end item in itself,
• A capability to perform a service (e.g., a business function that supports production or distribution), or
• A result such as an outcome or document (e.g., a research project that develops knowledge that can be used to determine whether a trend is present or a new process will benefit society).
• Examples of projects include, but are not limited to:
• Developing a new product or service,
• Effecting a change in the structure, staffing, or style of an organization,
• Developing or acquiring a new or modified information system,
• Constructing a building or infrastructure, and
• Implementing a new business process or procedure.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.