What exactly is meant by a Project

Although project management has been around for quite some time, there still seems to be some confusion regarding the definition of a “project”, sometimes even among the more experienced project managers. People may use the word “project” with reference to a lot of things such as designing a software or a new car, to constructing a new building or home, planning an event, implementing a new IT system in an organization, figuring out solutions to a major problem, or opening a new restaurant.

So, how do we know which definition of “project” is the right one? I recommend taking a look at what the experts in the field of Project Management have to say. According to the PMI – a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” A project has a definite beginning and end. Projects are undertaken to produce a unique product, service,or result. Almost everyone knows what products and services are, but what type of “results” are we talking about here? Thanks to the 2004 version of the PMBOK, we now have the answer. It means that the results of the project may live far beyond the life of the project itself. Let’s look at a few examples – Mount Rushmore, a sculptural marvel completed in 1941, now has over 2 million visitors every year; reduced pollution from hybrids could benefit the planet for a long time after the initial design project; and increase in savings of time and money due to automated systems — these are the results from projects.

project blueprints

Now, let’s have a look at some of the typical features of a project.
A project should have the following characteristics:

    A Project is temporary in nature. It has a definite start and a definite end (if a project runs very long or never ends then it isn’t a project but rather a program or an ongoing operation).
    As we discussed earlier, projects are undertaken with the purpose of creating a unique product, service or result (even if a project has been done before, there is always something different about it, such as the place, people, materials etc.).
    A project has (or should have) clearly defined goals and objectives (In case it is open ended or its objective changes over time, it is likely a program or a continuous operation).
    A project may be declared closed when its approved objectives have been fulfilled.

Since there isn’t any hard-and-fast rule on what is called a “project”, don’t correct your employer or project sponsor when they ask you to go manage a “project” that may not look like one by definition. Just smile and take comfort in the fact that you’re one of the few who know the difference.