What Is Project Management Exactly

If you are like most people, you are "pretty sure" you know what projects are, and you "think" you know what project management is (and what a project manager does), but there's always a varying amount of uncertainty in those perceptions. So, let's start off by clarifying some key concepts. Project management is simply the process of managing projects (and you thought this was going to be difficult). While this definition is not particularly helpful, it does illustrate three key points:

• Project management is not "brain surgery." Yes, it covers a vast array of subjects, processes, skills, and tools, but the key fundamentals of project management are straightforward and are consistent across industries.

• To better understand project management, we need to understand what a project is. The nature of a project provides insights into the scope and challenges of project management.

• To better understand project management, we need to understand what is implied by the term managing and how this compares against traditional business management.

What Is a Project Exactly?

A project is the work performed by an organization one time to produce a unique outcome. By "one time," we mean the work has a definite beginning and a definite end, and by "unique," we mean the work result is different in one or more ways from anything the organization has produced before. Examples of projects would include the following:

• Building a new house

• Developing a new software application

• Performing an assessment of current manufacturing processes

• Creating a new radio commercial

The Project Management Institute (PMI), the globally recognized standards organization for project management, defines a project as "a temporary endeavor to produce a unique product or service."

This is in contrast to the operations of an organization. The operational work is the ongoing, repetitive set of activities that sustain the organization. Examples of ongoing operations include the following:

• Processing customer orders

• Performing accounts receivable and accounts payable activities

• Executing the daily manufacturing orders

To further explain the nature of projects (and project management) and how they compare to the ongoing operations of an organization, please review the summary in Table 1.1.

Table 1.1. Comparing Projects and Operations


Key Similarities

Purpose Time



Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

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.

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