When and why would you use project management?

Published on: 22 Aug 2016

Project management vs management

How does project management differ from simply "management" and how does project management in the workplace differ from a personal project such as refurbishing a house? Could it be the type of career that will suit you? 

Project management is the initiation, planning and control of a range of tasks required to deliver and end product or objective, which could be a physical product, new software or something less tangible like a new way of working.  These could be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits. 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 objectives as the distinguishing factor

Project management is essentially concerned with managing discrete packages of work to achieve objectives -  producing an end-product that will effect some change for the benefit of the organisation that instigated the project.

Objectives may be expressed in terms of outputs (such as a new HQ building), outcomes (such as staff being relocated from multiple locations to the new HQ), benefits (such as reduced travel and facilities management costs) or strategic objectives (such as doubling the organisation’s share price in three years).

Essentially, projects are separate to business-as-usual activities, requiring people to come together temporarily to focus on specific project objectives.  As a result, effective teamwork is central to successful projects. 

The scale, significance and complexity of the work are obvious factors that affect the way the work is managed: relocating a small office and organising the Olympics share many basic principles but offer very different managerial challenges. 

A key factor that distinguishes project management from just management is that it has this final deliverable and a finite timespan, unlike management which is an ongoing process. Because of this a project manager needs a wide range of skills; often technical skills, certainly people management skills and good business awareness. 

Who uses project management?

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.

Why use project management?

Investment in effective project management will have a number of benefits to both the host organisation and the people involved in delivering the project. It will:

  • provide a greater likelihood of achieving the desired result;
  • ensure efficient and best value use of resources;
  • satisfy the differing needs of the project’s stakeholders
  • Produce something new or altered: tangible or intangible