What is Project Management?

Try this one day. Get hold of a project manager and ask them what they do. They will probably find it quite hard to answer. If pressed, you may get a response such as “Err.. Manage projects…” Which, while correct, does not help an outsider very much in answering the question, “What is project management?”

Since I am a geeky sort of a guy, let us take the question apart and ask “What is a project?” and “What is management?”

What is a project?

There are lots of formal definitions of what a project is, however they all share the following two factors:

A Project:

A project is temporary. In other words, it has a start and a finish.
A project creates something which is new or unique.

Typical projects are the creation of a new product, service, or result.

These two factors are the core of what a makes a piece of work a project and not an operational task.

In the business world, we expect a project to involve lots of different people who work together to create that something which is new or unique. The task of getting many people to work together leads us nicely into our second question…

What is Management?

Nearly everyone has a good idea of what management is. We have all experienced it at some point in our lives. I like the definition of management which is taken from the business dictionary (link here):

Management (verb):

Management is the organization and co-ordination of the activities of the business in order to achieve defined objectives.

So, What is Project Management?

Team of ants gathering wild strawberry as an example of teamwork
“Project management is about bringing a group of people together to create something new and unique within a given timeframe and budget.”

Projects are the place where the new products, services, and processes that we will use tomorrow are created.

Project management is what makes those projects happen.

Project management is about bringing a group of people together to create something new and unique within a given timeframe and budget. Normally, the people on the project team will have quite different skills and knowledge.  Together, the team will create something that they could not have done alone.

Projects are the place where an organization is at it’s most innovative and creative. This is one of the factors that make project management one of the most exciting jobs to be working in.

How Does Project Management Work?

After asking “What is project management'”, the next question is normally “How does it work?” After all, if every project is different, what does project management have to offer? Do you not need to manage each project differently?

Project management works because, even though each project is unique, the process followed to complete each project is the same.

As you might expect, people disagree on what is actually “the best” process for managing a project. This has lead to the development of a number of variations of the process.

Most organizations pick a process from one of the most well known processes. Then they modify it to fit their needs. In some cases, industry practise will play a role in deciding the best process. In other cases, the size of the project or other local factors will be important.

Project Management for You:

Project management gives people a chance to show their leadership skills, entrepreneurship, and creativity. Managing a project well is often a springboard for making the next step in your carreer.

The Importance of Project Management World Wide:

According to the PMI (Project Management Institute, one of the largest project management organizations in the world), about one fifth of global GDP is  spent on project work. This is about 12 trillion USD a year! So, is this something worth being interested in? You bet it is…