What is a project? Projects, projects, projects – they have permanently become part of the vocabulary of business managers. They are short-term, complex activities with a pre-planned framework, focused on a specific result. It’s hard to imagine timely achievement of business goals and task-based budget planning without them. However, the market is moving away from the model where we create and deliver a product one time. It bets on a long-term relationship with users, continuous contact, agile improvement, adjustment and fine-tuning without end. So does project planning and execution no longer make sense? Is project a buzzword, defining an outdated way of doing business? Read on to find out more.

What is a project? – table of contents:

  1. What is a project?
  2. Temporary nature of the project
  3. Gymnastic enterprises
  4. The beginning and end of the project
  5. Unique results
  6. Summary

What is a project?

The world’s largest organization for people involved in project management is the Project Management Institute (PMI). Founded in 1969, it has nearly 3 million people working as Project Managers or studying various aspects of management. The organization’s age, however, does not mean that the knowledge it promotes is not updated and adapted to the requirements of today’s market. Business projects are doing well, and PMI estimates that the number of project managers is expected to increase by up to 33% by 2027, creating 22 million new jobs worldwide.

PMI periodically releases new and improved versions of the book entitled Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The latest, seventh version was released in August 2021, and unlike its previous ones, it was actually rewritten. After all, project management has recently been changing almost as rapidly as the digital work environment.

However, the definition of a project, a concept central to PMI, has hardly changed. A project is defined as follows: “A temporary endeavor to produce a unique product, service, or result. The temporary nature of projects indicates the beginning and end of a project or phase of project work. Projects can be executed alone or be part of a program or portfolio.”

The word “project” defines then a very specific and deliberate action, thanks to which a product or organization undergoes an expected metamorphosis, the results of which can be measured. In the following text, we will elaborate on and explain the elements of the definition from PMBOK. We will answer the questions:

  • What does it mean that the project is a temporary endeavor?
  • What is the meaning of the beginning and end of a project?
  • How to understand the uniqueness of the result of a project?

However, we will devote separate texts to discuss the stages that a project consists of and what types of projects there are.

Temporary nature of the project

Projects have a definite time frame and a one-time nature. That’s why temporariness is one of the most important characteristics of a project, which helps distinguish it from a product. The one-time nature and unique result allow projects to be distinguished from processes carried out in a company. A project can thus be:

  • building a single-family housing estate
  • opening a branch of a company in another city
  • organizing a corporate event
  • redesigning a website
  • preparing an application for financing the company from European funds
what is a project

Gymnastic enterprises

In the traditional approach, a detailed project execution plan was considered an integral part of the project. So the project team went to work equipped with a detailed schedule of tasks covering the entire duration of the project – from start to finish. However, as project management methods have matured, this approach has gradually changed.

In PMI’s report titled “Pulse of the Profession 2021: Beyond Agility,” companies taking a new approach freely using project management methods and principles in line with market requirements have been called gymnastic. They use “the right approach in the right way at the right time to deliver what’s needed.”

Although on paper such management looks a bit less impressive than traditional methods, it works very well in practice. Especially in the management of high-risk projects and hybrid and remote teams.

The beginning and end of the project

As we move away from the cascade approach (the Waterfall method) and the growing popularity of agile methods (Agile) and their variants (such as Scrum and Scrumban), it has become popular to consider as the norm to gradually tackle tasks, their detailed budget and means of execution.

Invariably, however, a project is different from other endeavors as it has a precisely defined beginning and end. When we start a project, we have a clearly defined goal and a vision of what we want to accomplish. We also have a defined budget, a schedule of tasks and completion criteria.

Unique results

Each project, apart from its temporary nature, specific purpose, beginning and end – has a unique result. For the examples listed above, the results will be one-off – building a single-family housing estate at a specific address, or holding a corporate event at the Sunrise Hotel on February 29, 2023.

The one-time nature of the project means that reusing the knowledge and skills acquired when executing a project requires adapting them to new conditions. For example, if once we manage to obtain funding for company development from the EU, it does not mean that our next application will also be successful. Each next application will be unique as many factors change:

  • performance parameters
  • market realities
  • implemented tasks
  • timeframe
  • criteria defining the beginning and end of the project

Although the implementation of a project is associated with a large undertaking, it’s worth remembering that a project can even be refreshing furniture in a company’s garden. This is because whether an undertaking is a project is neither determined by the number of involved people nor by the planned or actual implementation time.

Summary

Project management is one of the most desired skills on the job market. That’s why understanding what projects are, and having a flexible approach to their implementation, is so important for business.

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What is a project? | #1 Getting started with project management caroline becker avatar 1background

Author: Caroline Becker

As a Project Manager, Caroline is an expert in finding new methods to design the best workflows and optimize processes. Her organizational skills and ability to work under time pressure make her the best person to turn complicated projects into reality.

The most important questions

  1. What is a project?

    According to the PMI’s definition, a project is a temporary endeavor that has a beginning, an end and a unique result.

  2. What are examples of projects?

    Projects are complex tasks, so they must include different types of activities. Therefore, a project is not sending an email, but implementing a Christmas mailing campaign. It is not putting in a screw, but replacing furniture at the company's headquarters.

Getting started with project management:

  1. What is a project?
  2. What is project management?
  3. How to manage projects?
  4. Project management methods
  5. Types of projects
  6. 4 examples of projects
  7. Prioritization of projects
  8. Areas of project activity
  9. Definition of success in project management
  10. Why use project management software?
  11. How to choose the best project management software?
  12. Overview of project management software
  13. Project life cycle
  14. What is the project vision for?
  15. Project goal. What is it and how to define it well?
  16. Project initiation phase - what to pay attention to?
  17. The domain of planning in project management
  18. What is a project schedule and what is it for?
  19. How to use milestones in a project?
  20. Project execution
  21. How to prepare a successful project contingency plan?
  22. Importance of project closure
  23. Project failure. 5 reasons why projects fail
  24. 4P of management: project, product, program and portfolio
  25. Most important tasks and responsibilities of the Project Manager
  26. Most useful project manager skills
  27. How to become a project manager?
  28. 5 books every project manager should read
  29. How to set up a project team?
  30. Work breakdown structure - how to delegate work in a project?