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Defining What a Project Is (#1 in the Hut A Quick Guide to Project Management)
By Manjeet Singh

You have been handed a project by your organization. Your job now is to effectively manage the project to completion. For your project to be successful, you need to understand what exactly constitutes a project, and which criteria are used to determine whether a project is successful or not.

A project has the following characteristics:

  • A start and end date: projects have dates that specify when project activities start and when they end.
  • Resources: time, money, people and equipment, used by the project. For example, to produce a brochure you will need a team (designers, copywriters, creative directors, etc.), equipment (computers, printers, paper, delivery trucks, etc.) and money to pay the salaries/fees, buy equipment, and so on.
  • An outcome: a project has a specific outcome such as new highway, a satellite, a new office building, a new piece of software, and so on.

Project success criteria

Whatever its size, a project’s success is based on three main criteria as shown by the following triangle:

Project Management Triangle

Your project will therefore be deemed successful if it:

  • Delivers the outcome with an agreed upon quality.
  • Does not overrun its end date.
  • Remains within budget (cost of resources).

Note however, that outcome, time and budget are interrelated, and during a project you may need to do trade-offs between them. For example, if you want to get something done more quickly, you may have to pump in more money into your project for additional resources.

Why are organizations using project management?

Today’s highly competitive business environment forces organizations to make high-quality products at a lower cost and in a shorter duration. Organizations therefore are increasingly using project management because it allows you to plan and organize resources to achieve a specified outcome within a given timeframe. The techniques of project management also help you manage and anticipate risks in a structured manner. Surveys of organizations using project management have shown that project management allows for better utilization of resources, shorter development times, reduced costs, interdepartmental cooperation that builds synergies across the organization, and a better focus on results and quality.

Next in the Hut A Quick Guide to Project Management:

The Project Life Cycle

Manjeet Singh has over 17 years of experience acquired in a wide variety of industries with a focus on project and program management at Software Makers and Global IT Services companies throughout the world. Manjeet has an Executive MBA from the HEC Management School, and is the author of the website www.projectminds.com that provides a free guide to project management, and offers other project management-related resources.

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