There have been more wise words written in definition of project management than we could ever read. Or ever want to read. We don’t aim to repeat the definitions here, nor to engage in an academic discussion about the variations of definition.
To us, a project;
- Is needed to create a change to an existing business process, system, structure, operating model (etc). Without the change project, the existing situation would continue. The implication is that there is a need to change the existing situation, perhaps to alleviate or avoid a problem, or perhaps to take advantage of an opportunity.
- Has a formally identified start - and end - point. An individual project does (should) not last forever, it should be formally closed down once it has achieved the objectives for which it was created.
- Is temporary - that’s implied by the above point - which means that resources are assigned to the project for a defined time period. Apart from the project manager (who may well be a serial project manager) other members of the project team are likely to be assigned to the project for as long as their specific skills are required.
- Should have clearly defined constraints. In addition to the fixed duration, a project should have a defined budget allocated to it, a clearly defined scope and a clearly defined set of objectives.
- Introduces risk and uncertainty into what may well have been a well-understood, smooth running business process. Risk and uncertainty needs very careful management, and this is a key responsibility of the project manager.
The role of the project manager does vary, typically with the experience of the individual project manager, but should be focused on achieving the change objective, using the allocation resources, within the defined constraints.
Project management is an art rather than a science.
Our approach to project management focuses on the outcomes that you want to achieve, and uses a mix of tools, processes and techniques to achieve those outcomes. We are aware of other approaches wherein the tools or processes are the most important element. But, in our opinion, dogmatically following a pre-defined process doesn’t always (or often) lead to project success.
There is no standard or typical project, which supports our view about the art rather than science based approach. Each project is different in many aspects; size, duration, complexity, criticality, driver, target area, stakeholders, organisation culture and change-maturity, etc.
It may be sensible, from a management and clarity perspective, to divide some projects into sub-projects or workstreams. The larger and more complex that the project becomes, the more likely that it could be termed a “programme”, consisting of a number of inter-linked and inter-dependent projects. A portfolio is usually a collection of smaller projects which have only tenuous inter-dependencies. Change management introduces other aspects, well beyond the simple delivery of project objectives.