What is project management?


‘At its most fundamental, project management is about people getting things done,’
Dr Martin Barnes, APM President 2003-2012.

What is project management?

Definition
Project management is the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives.

General
A project is a unique, transient endeavour, undertaken to achieve planned objectives, which could be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits. A project is usually deemed to be a success if it achieves the objectives according to their acceptance criteria, within an agreed timescale and budget.

The core components of project management are:

  • defining the reason why a project is necessary;
  • capturing project requirements, specifying quality of the deliverables, estimating resources and timescales;
  • preparing a business case to justify the investment;
  • securing corporate agreement and funding;
  • developing and implementing a management plan for the project;
  • leading and motivating the project delivery team;
  • managing the risks, issues and changes on the project;
  • monitoring progress against plan;
  • managing the project budget;
  • maintaining communications with stakeholders and the project organisation;
  • provider management;
  • closing the project in a controlled fashion when appropriate.

When would you use project management?
Projects are separate to business-as-usual activities, requiring people to come together temporarily to focus on specific project objectives. As a result, effective teamwork is central to successful projects.

Project management is concerned with managing discrete packages of work to achieve objectives. The way the work is managed depends upon a wide variety of factors.

The scale, significance and complexity of the work are obvious factors: relocating a small office and organising the Olympics [insert link 2012] share many basic principles but offer very different managerial challenges.

A good distinguishing factor is often to look at the nature of the objectives.

Objectives may be expressed in terms of outputs (such as a new HQ building), outcomes (such as staff being relocated from multiple locations to the new HQ), benefits (such as reduced travel and facilities management costs) or strategic objectives (such as doubling the organisation’s share price in three years).

Why do we use project management?
Investment in effective project management will have a number of benefits to both the host organisation and the people involved in delivering the project. It will:

  • provide a greater likelihood of achieving the desired result;
  • ensure efficient and best value use of resources;
  • satisfy the differing needs of the project’s stakeholders.

Find out about starting a career in project management

Browse the APM Knowledge site for more detail on a range of project management subjects.

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