What is project management?

Published on: 22 Aug 2016

Project management is essentially aimed at producing an end-product that will effect some change for the benefit of the organisation that instigated the project. It is the initiation, planning and control of a range of tasks required to deliver this end product, which could be a physical product, it could be new software or something less tangible like a new way of working. 

A key factor that distinguishes project management from just ‘management’ is that it has a final deliverable and a finite timespan. Because of this a project manager needs a wide range of skills; often technical skills, people management skills and good business awareness. A project is usually deemed to be a success if it achieves the objectives according to their acceptance criteria, within an agreed timescale and budget.

Project management is the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives. 

The core components of project management are:

  • defining the reason why a project is necessary;
  • capturing project requirements, specifying quality of the deliverables, estimating resources and timescales;
  • preparing a business case to justify the investment;
  • securing corporate agreement and funding;
  • developing and implementing a management plan for the project;
  • leading and motivating the project delivery team;
  • managing the risks, issues and changes on the project;
  • monitoring progress against plan;
  • managing the project budget;
  • maintaining communications with stakeholders and the project organisation;
  • provider management;
  • closing the project in a controlled fashion when appropriate.

What does a project manager do?

Project managers are in charge of specific projects that have definite outcomes, have time limits and have to stay within a budget. These roles typically include tasks such as:

  • planning what work needs to be done, when and who’s going to do it
  • looking at the risks involved in a particular project and managing these risks
  • making sure the work is done to the right standard
  • motivating the team of people involved in the project
  • co-ordinating work done by different people
  • making sure the project is running on time and to budget
  • dealing with changes to the project as and when necessary
  • making sure the project delivers the expected outcomes and benefits
  • some project managers also have specialist technical knowledge.

    Projects crop up in almost all industries and businesses, for instance:

  • Transport and infrastructure
  • IT
  • Product manufacture
  • Building and construction
  • Regulatory changes in finance and law

    There are standard project management processes used to plan and control tasks, budgets and schedules, to communicate between the different people involved and deal with risks. These processes are usually ongoing throughout the project. There are also various phases of a project that will have a defined start and end within the overall project lifespan.