What is a project

Dictionary definitions of 'project' include: 'A specific plan or design' 'A planned undertaking' 'A large undertaking: for example, a public works scheme'

Longman Concise English Dictionary, 1982.

The dictionary definitions put a clear emphasis on the project's being a planned activity.

Another key aspect of a project is that the undertaking is non-routine: a job which is repeated a number of times is not a project. There is a hazy boundary in between. The first time you do a routine task it will be very like a project. On the other hand, a project to develop a system that is very similar to previous ones that you have developed will have a large element of the routine.

We can summarize the key characteristics that distinguish projects as follows:

non-routine tasks are involved; planning is required;

specific objectives are to be met or a specified product is to be created; the project has a predetermined time span (which may be absolute or relative); work is carried out for someone other than yourself; work involves several specialisms; work is carried out in several phases;

the resources that are available for use on the project are constrained;

the project is large or complex.

In general, the more any of these factors applies to a task, the more difficult it is going to be to complete it successfully. Project size is particularly important. It should not be a surprise that a project that employs 200 project personnel is going to be rather trickier to manage than one that involves just two people. The examples and exercises used in this book usually relate to smaller projects. This is just to make them more manageable from a learning point of view: the techniques and issues discussed are of equal relevance to larger projects.

Exercise 1.1 Consider the following:

• producing an edition of a newspaper;

• building the Channel Tunnel;

• getting married;

• amending a financial computer system to deal with dates after the 31st December, 1999;

• a research project into what makes a good human-computer interface;

• an investigation into the reason why a user has a problem with a computer system;

• a programming assignment for a second year computing student;

• writing an operating system for a new computer;

• installing a new version of a word processing application in an organization.

Some would appear to merit the description 'project' more than others. Put them into an order that most closely matches your ideas of what constitutes a project. For each entry in the ordered list, describe the difference between it and the one above that makes it less worthy of the term 'project'.

There is no one correct answer to this exercise, but a possible solution to this and the other exercises you will come across may be found at the end of the book.

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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