What is project management?




Definition

Project management is the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to the project acceptance criteria within agreed parameters. Project management has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget.

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 professional needs a wide range of skills; often technical skills, and certainly people management skills and good business awareness.

Definition from APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition  📖





"At its most fundamental,
project management
is about people getting things done."

Dr Martin Barnes, APM President 2003-2012




What is a project?

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. Time, cost and quality are the building blocks of every project. 

Time: scheduling is a collection of techniques used to develop and present schedules that show when work will be performed.

Cost: how are necessary funds acquired and finances managed?

Quality: how will fitness for purpose of the deliverables and management processes be assured?

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.

 

Why, when, who?

Why do we use project management

Project management is 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. Projects that require formal management are those that:

Project management is 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. Projects that require formal management are those that:

  • produce something new or altered, tangible or intangible;
  • have a finite timespan: a definite start and end;
  • are likely to be complex in terms of work or groups involved;
  • require the management of change;
  • require the management of risks.

Investment in effective project management will have a number of benefits, such as:

  • providing a greater likelihood of achieving the desired result;
  • ensuring efficient and best value use of resources;
  • satisfying the differing needs of the project’s stakeholders.

When do we use project management?

Projects are separate from business-as-usual activities and occur when an organisation wants to deliver a solution to set requirements within an agreed budget and timeframe. Projects require a team of people to come together temporarily to focus on specific project objectives. As a result, effective teamwork is central to successful projects.

Projects require a team of 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 specific 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 share many basic principles, but offer very different managerial challenges. 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);
  • strategic objectives (such as doubling the organisation’s share price in three years).

Who uses project management?

Anyone and everyone manages projects, even if they aren’t formally called a ‘project manager’. Ever organised an event? That’s a project you managed with a team of people, and project management is life skill for all. More formally, projects crop up in all industries and business:

  • Transport and Infrastructure
  • IT
  • Product manufacture
  • Building and Construction
  • Finance and Law


How to start in project management

Starting Out in Project Management is your essential guide to the basics of project management. Written for anyone new to projects or wishing to progress their career as a project professional 'Starting Out' charts the journey of the APM project life cycle, from concept through to delivery and handover.

You will learn about the fundamental features of project management, including ownership of the business case, engaging with stakeholders and realising the all-important benefits of the project, plus much, much more.

Find out more


Related reading

Project management - an introduction    BLOG  
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... read more

Project management processes and phases    BLOG  
This is the second in a monthly series of posts looking at the fundamentals of project management for anyone new to the profession or those considering entering it... read more

Business requirements and project managers    BLOG  
At the start of any project the client will have an idea of what the project is intended to achieve; sometimes the idea is vague, sometimes clearly defined... read more

People and behaviours in project management    BLOG  
This is the 4th in a series of posts about the basics of project management for novice project managers... read more



Using a Gantt Chart to manage a project schedule
    BLOG  
There are many different techniques and tools that a project manager can use to control a project schedule on a day-to-day basis and for managing dependencies... read more

Project managers don't forget about behaviours and attitudes    BLOG  
Those new to project management often worry about which qualifications to seek; which will give them the best opportunity to develop their career... read more

The basics of an effective project plan    BLOG  
I have had to remind myself that this current series of blog posts is predominantly aimed at those new to project management... read more

Dealing with project risks effectively    BLOG  
How to identify risks on a project and how to ensure the risks were specific to the project and not general business-as-usual risks... read more

Find resources to help you manage projects

APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition

The APM Body of Knowledge 7th edition is a foundational resource providing the concepts, functions and activities that make up professional project management. It reflects the developing profession, recognising project-based working at all levels, and across all sectors for influencers, decision makers, project professionals and their teams.

The seventh edition continues in the spirit of previous editions, collaborating with the project community to create a foundation for the successful delivery of projects, programmes and portfolios.

APM Body of Knowledge


Could you be a project manager?

A good place to start is to visit our careers section; this will provide you with the resources to begin your project management journey.

APM Careers

 

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