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Project management - an introduction

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This is the first in a monthly series of posts looking at the fundamentals of project management for anyone new to the profession or those considering entering it. I will aim to cover all the basic elements of project management and hope it will also be useful for more experienced project managers who may want to remind themselves why they entered the profession in the first place. I hope some of you readers out there will get involved with the discussions and help influence the topics for future posts.

Project management – an introduction
So what is project management? How does it differ from simply "management" and how does project management in the workplace differ from a personal project such as refurbishing a house? And, of course, could it be the type of career that will suit you?

Project management is essentially aimed at producing an end-product that will effect some change for the benefit of the organisation that instigated the project. It is the initiation, planning and control of a range of tasks required to deliver this end product, which could be a physical product, it could be new software or something less tangible like a new way of working.

A key factor that distinguishes project management from just management is that it has this final deliverable and a finite timespan, unlike management which is an ongoing process. Because of this a project manager needs a wide range of skills; often technical skills, certainly people management skills and good business awareness.

For all but the simplest projects a formal approach to managing a project works best. The control imposed by a formal approach is essential when there are complexities such as new technology, inter-dependent tasks, teams spread across several departments or companies, or where teams are located in different parts of the world; all common occurrences in many business projects.

Because every project will involve some type of change, change management is an integral part of the PM process. And because there is change there are likely to be risks so risk management is also thrown into the project management mix.

So what have I said already about projects that require formal management?

  • Produce something new or altered: tangible or intangible
  • Have a finite timespan: a definite start and end
  • Likely to be complex in terms of work or groups involved
  • Require the management of change
  • Require the management of risks

Projects crop up in almost all industries and businesses, for instance:

  • Transport and infrastructure
  • IT
  • Product manufacture
  • Building and construction
  • Regulatory changes in finance and law

There are standard project management processes used to plan and control tasks, budgets and schedules, to communicate between the different people involved and deal with risks. These processes are usually ongoing throughout the project.

There are also various phases of a project that will have a defined start and end within the overall project lifespan. For instance, the requirements gathering phase often occurs in the early part of the project.

So a project has a range of processes that occur throughout it life (monitoring, controlling, communicating etc.) and a range of phases (initiation, requirements, planning etc.) that occur roughly chronologically. Next month I will look in detail at these fundamental project processes and phases but, in the meantime, why not let us know what attracted you to project management as a career?

This is a Project Management Fundamentals blog written and sponsored by Parallel Project Training. For more about our project management training courses visit our website.

Other blogs in this series:

This is a project management fundamentals blog written and sponsored by Parallel Project Training. For more about our project management training courses visit our website or visit Paul Naybour on Google+.


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  1. Adrian Pyne
    Adrian Pyne 25 May 2014, 08:16 PM

    Takes me right back to my schooldays. :-)Looking forward to your next month's post. 

  2. Paul Naybour
    Paul Naybour 23 May 2014, 04:43 PM

    Adrain Thanks for taking the time to provide feedback. It is only the first of many posts, much more to come. I agree people make projects. Maybe the topic for next months post is born.Have a good weekend. Paul 

  3. Adrian Pyne
    Adrian Pyne 23 May 2014, 03:57 PM

    Hi Paul,A friend of mine is teaching one of his son's to drive. He knows his son is well, a bloke. Being a young guy means a tendency to slightly silly behaviour, especially when with other young guys. So his approach to teaching driving is to encourage good driving behaviours, as well as how to control a car, follow the Highway Code and so on.You never know, it might work!And so it is with project management. Lots of folk are trying to overcome the obsession with Process there has been for 30 odd years. And then......I really like your excellent idea to do briefings for those of little experience or who are interested in our profession. FAB idea.And then you go an spoil it by focussing on Process. So many of us have been trying to get people to think beyond process to well.......People. Yes you do mention People stuff. e.g. communication, but in the context of doing communication as just another process.In the end, it is how people behave that determines the success of a project. So for those starting out, they need to be encouraged in the right behaviours, AND, in the process of project management.A plea then, can you reflect the way of driving with the way to drive please?    

  4. Simin Baloochzadeh
    Simin Baloochzadeh 15 May 2014, 12:16 PM

    Great points.