What is Project Management?

Projects

Every business must create some product or provide some service. Typically, such activity is at least somewhat complex, involving multiple stages and the use of various resources in order to accomplish the final goal. This entire process is referred to in business as a “project.” The term covers a wide variety of things, such as engineering a new product, constructing a building, designing a new business plan, and expanding operations.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a project as a “temporary group activity designed to produce a unique product, service or result.” The PMI goes on to explain the two characteristic qualities of a project: it is unique because it has a specific, well-defined goal, and it is temporary because upon the completion of that goal, the project is considered to be finished.

F. John Reh of about.com lists four components of a project:

  • Resources - This includes materials required by the project, as well as that most difficult of resources to manage—people.
  • Time - Time is limited, and must be budgeted well.
  • Money - All projects will require certain costs in order to complete them. Such expenses should be planned ahead of time and monitored closely to ensure profitability.
  • Scope - Without limited and clearly defined goals, a project can grow bit by bit until it has extended far beyond the original vision and become unmanageable.

Project Management

It will come as no surprise that projects do not get done spontaneously. A well-run business leaves nothing to chance. Thus, it is important that a project be carefully planned out, and that every stage be monitored closely to keep track of progress on the way to completion. All four aspects of projects as described by Reh must be kept in mind at all times. The process of planning and supervising a project is known as “project management,” and no business can afford to do without it.

Over the past century, the field of project management has grown increasingly sophisticated in response to the ever-more complex nature of products in the modern world. Many tools have been developed to help businesses get their goals accomplished, and institutions such as the PMI have been created to promote and improve the practices of project management.

The PMI lists five project management processes, corresponding to the five stages of a project:

  • Initiation
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing

It also enumerates nine areas of knowledge that are involved in project management:

  • Integration
  • Cost
  • Human Resources
  • Scope
  • Quality
  • Communications
  • Time
  • Procurement
  • Risk Management

This last list is especially important to understand for those new to the world of project management. As it indicates, project management not only covers the actual processes and needs of a project, but also the quality of its output and preparation for potentially troublesome contingencies.

For news, tips, and a directory of sites about project management, please see Project Accelerator, a site dedicated to helping project management professionals of all types with valuable industry resources.