What Is a Project

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com

Are you wondering what is a project and what is not? Here is an example of a project:

The manager of the department you work in tells you the people are wasting time getting supplies from the supply room. He wants you to do a project to fix the problem.

Projects have a specific objective (goal). We want to achieve the goal so we have to do the project only once.  If you keep doing the same project over and over, obviously you’re not achieving the results the boss wanted.

What is a Project: Some Examples

The characteristics of all projects are the same. Their size doesn’t matter. All projects have a unique and specific objective. They have a beginning and end date. They often have a specific budget. The expectation is that we do them only once. Here are some examples of projects:

  • opening a new business
  • developing a computer program to process payroll
  • resurfacing a highway
  • opening a new healthcare clinic
  • What is a Projectbuilding an apartment complex.

What is a Project: The Steps

All of the efforts listed above are projects. All of them follow the same general steps:

  1. Project initiation – in this first step, a manager or executive comes up with the idea for the project. They give a project manager and other people an overview of the idea. The initiation process often includes obtaining approval from the organization to spend money on a project. When approval is given, we begin planning.
  2. Project planning – we need to communicate what the project is trying to produce. That’s called the scope and it’s defined by the manager or executive who initiated the project. Next the project manger develops the project plan. It includes a schedule, a budget and the people we need to work on delivering the scope. Larger projects have many stakeholders, the people who are affected by the project. So the plans for larger projects are more extensive. The project manager presents the project plan and schedule to the organization. When it’sapproved, we begin to execute the plan.
  3. Executing the project – most of the time and money on a project is spent during the executing phase. This is where we actually perform all the tasks specified in the project plan. The tasks are the deliverables that the team produces. The project executive or stakeholders review and accept the deliverables. They may also ask for changes. The project manager is monitoring everything that is happening.
  4. Monitoring and controlling – the project manager will monitor actual results and compare them to the plan. He or she will also identify differences (variances) between the two. When there are differences between the plan and the actual results, the project manager works to correct them.
  5. Closing – when the final deliverable has been produced and accepted, the project needs to be closed out. That involves holding a lessons learned meeting. It documents what we did and didn’t do well.  The intent is to have data that is useful on future projects and help avoid making the same mistakes. Archiving data from the project makes future projects easier and more successful.
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