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What is Project Management?

More specifically, what is a project? Its a temporary group activity designed to produce a unique
product, service or result.
A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined
scope and resources.
And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed
to accomplish a singular goal. So a project team often includes people who dont usually work
together sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies.
The development of software for an improved business process, the construction of a building or
bridge, the relief effort after a natural disaster, the expansion of sales into a new geographic market
all are projects.
And all must be expertly managed to deliver the on-time, on-budget results, learning and integration
that organizations need.
Project management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute
projects effectively and efficiently. Its a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie
project results to business goals and thus, better compete in their markets.
It has always been practiced informally, but began to emerge as a distinct profession in the mid-20th
century. PMIs A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) identifies its
recurring elements:
Project management processes fall into five groups:




Monitoring and Controlling

Project management knowledge draws on ten areas:






Human resources


Risk management

Stakeholder management
All management is concerned with these, of course. But project management brings a
unique focus shaped by the goals, resources and schedule of each project. The value of that focus
is proved by the rapid, worldwide growth of project management:

as a recognized and strategic organizational competence

as a subject for training and education
as a career path

Project management - the basics

The basic elements of project management
Most projects can be divided up into five basic stages and processes. Terms that are commonly used for
these are:

initiation ('kick-off' or start)

planning and development
production and implementation (sometimes known as execution)
monitoring and controlling
All projects will use these basic elements but at a level appropriate to the size and complexity of the project.
Initiation is the formal start of a project and will usually be triggered by the issue of a Project Mandate which
briefly describes the purpose of the project, and gives authority to spend money on initiating the project. The
initiation stage is where work is carried out to assess what needs to be done and how best to do it with
whatever resources are available.
Initiation is when the nature and scope of most projects are defined. By this point, if necessary, there should
already be a project team in place, an outline business case, an understanding of the customer or
stakeholders' expectations and a risk log.
During this phase, work should be carried out to broadly plan and cost the project, to clarify, revise and
justify the business case and generally define the 'who, why, what, when and how' of the project. The criteria
confirming project 'closure' - the end of the project - should also be determined at this point.
Commonly, this information is captured in a document that's often referred to as the project initiation
document (PID) or project definition, which can be the key product of this stage of the process.
Download a project initiation document template (DOC, 44K).
Planning and development
After the high level planning done during initiation, a more detailed phase of planning and development
usually occurs. The result should be a clear specification for what needs to be done, who by, and when.

The main focus should be on ensuring that time, cost and resources are sensibly managed and available, and
committed to the project. This enables you to create a project plan and schedule, which is a key product of
this stage of the process. Risk and resources for resolving unforeseen issues, as well as progress
checkpoints, should also be factored into the plan at this stage.
Once this has been done, you are ready to start spending the main part of the project budget. You should
gain formal approval to begin the work, if necessary, now that you have a better idea how much it will all
Production and implementation
The production and implementation stage is when the project plan is put into action by implementing the
processes outlined in the previous stages. At this point any deliverables are produced (where applicable) as
defined by the project plan. For example, if you had a project to produce a new promotional pack for a trade
show, early deliverables might be to complete all of your product photography, and gather product
information and prices.
At this stage, it is important to ensure that the project remains focused on its objectives and that any factors
which could affect the execution of the project are closely monitored.
Monitoring and controlling
Throughout the production and implementation stage the ongoing progress of the project must be
monitored. Progress must be controlled and any issues which arise as a result of the day-to-day work must
be dealt with.
Project performance should be regularly observed and measured against the predicted expectations of the
project plan, as well as any quality measurement mechanisms also in place.
Closing is the last phase of any project and is when the work done is formally accepted and the project is
dissolved. Closure does not necessarily mean success, but simply the final point of the project - when failed
projects are cancelled, for instance, they should also be closed.
Commonly, closure involves the finalisation of all activities across the project and a handover into business
as usual if this applies. This should be accompanied by a project review or 'lessons learned' exercise and the
archiving of any relevant project documents, which can be used to feed into and improve any future projects
and plans.