Figure The Project Management Triangle

We agree with quality guru Joseph Juran that a project is a problem scheduled for solution.

Not specific to software, the Project Management Institute includes a fairly well-received definition in its PMBOK Guide. PMI refers to a project as: a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service with a definite beginning and end, different from ongoing, repetitive operations and requiring progressive elaboration of characteristics.^ These project definitions have a few things in common:

Objective. There must be a clearly defined goal or set of goals for the project. A project must accomplish something. If a project has multiple goals, they should be related to each other, and not conflict with one another.

Start and end points. A project is a temporary endeavor. It must have a clearly defined beginning and ending, usually expressed as dates. Software maintenance is usually an ongoing operation, not a project, but may have well-defined projects that occur within it, such as specific releases.

Uniqueness. A project is a one-time thing, not usually repeated exactly the same way. This does not imply that repeat performance is not a project. Building a house is usually classified as a project, even though contractors have built millions of houses. Although the pattern and process are basically the same (a template), there are enough differences in each house (such as lot and location, varying materials, and code and design changes) to distinguish it from others. Otherwise, it becomes an ongoing production line making identical pieces in exactly the same way. The same is true for software professionals—we never build exactly the same software system, although we may copy it or port it.

Constraints. A project has cost, schedule, and quality performance constraints. These are the "big three" of the PM triangle that must be balanced and managed to achieve success.

So, our practical definition of this term in the software development realm is: A project is a unique, temporary endeavor with defined start and end dates to achieve one or more objectives within the constraints of cost, schedule, and quality performance.

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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