Project management fundamentals

Definition

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

General

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. 

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.

For different roles and skills required, have a look at the project professional career path. Examine project management concepts, tools and techniques in depth through the APM Body of Knowledge online.

Read more on why we use project management and who benefits from it. 

What is project management?

Project management as your career

What is project management?

Find out why time, cost and quality are the building blocks of every project in this two-minute video.

Golden rules of project management

Discover the golden rules and learn what project professionals really think are the secrets to project success. 

The golden rules of project management

When do you use project management?

Projects are separate from 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 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).

 

Why do we use project management?

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. 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.

Learn more

How do I start my career in project management?

A good place to start is to visit our careers section; this will provide you with the tools and resources to begin your journey. It's also worth having a look at some of our case studies to find out more about the sectors where project professionals work and the variety of different roles available.

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