A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result (PMBOK Guide, Sixth Edition).
To differentiate projects from operations, you should understand the meaning of the two keywords used in the definition, temporary and unique.
Unique Product, service, or result
To complete a project, it is required to produce a deliverable. A deliverable is any unique and verifiable product (eg. a bridge), service (eg. an audit), or result (eg. a market study). The project may also deliver a unique combination of the above deliverables.
Repetitive elements may be present in some project deliverables and activities. These repetition, however, does not alter the uniqueness of the project. For example, you may be constructing two similar houses. Though the design may be similar and repetitive, there are several unique elements like the location of the building, soil condition, time line, etc.
Temporary does not imply short duration. Projects could span several years. A project like Great Wall of China has spanned over 2000 years, though you may consider it as a project with multiple phases or a program with several projects.
A project has a definite duration, beginning and an end. Projects are temporary, but the deliverables of the project live longer.
Examples of Projects
- Construction of Great Wall of China, Construction of Big Temple, Construction of Taj Mahal, Construction of Eiffel Tower
- Launch of iPhone X
- Political campaign for President of the United States
- Conducting a tour
- Organizing a national project management conference
- Merger of Walt Disney and Pixar, Merger of Exxon and Mobil into ExxonMobil
- Acquisition of Gillette by Procter & Gamble
- Production of a video film on street children in Namibia
- Publication of a manual for educators and social workers
- Implementation of Document Management System
End of a project
The end of a project is considered to be reached when any one of the following conditions are met:
- The project’s objectives have been achieved
- The resources are no longer available to carry out the project (eg. physical resources, human resources and/ or financial resources)
- The project is terminated because its objectives cannot or will not be met
- The project is cancelled when the need for the project no longer exists or
- The project is terminated due to legal reasons
Why projects are initiated?
Projects are initiated in an organization for various reasons. They fundamentally drive change in organizations, to enable the organization to achieve its strategic goal. The four primary reasons for initiating a project are as follows:
- To meet regulatory, social or legal requirements: The government’s recent implementation of GST might lead to several new projects, like new software systems, so that organizations align themselves to meet the new GST requirements.
- To satisfy stakeholder requests or needs: Stakeholder may request that the organization complies with ISO 9001 Quality Management System. This could lead to new projects.
- To implement or change business or technological strategies: Chinese mobile phone manufacturer OnePlus came up with a strategy to produce flagship killer phones at a low price; this led to a redesign of mobile phones and invite-only sale approach.
- To create, improve, or fix products, processes, or services: The focus on solar power as an alternate energy source has led to several projects leading to the installation of solar power panels.
There could be several specific factors for initiating a project, which could align with one or more of the four fundamental factor categories listed above. Some specific factors are new technology, competitive forces, material issues, political changes, economic changes, legal requirements, social need, environmental considerations, market demand, customer request, stakeholder needs, business process improvements, strategic opportunity or business need, etc.
To summarize, the following are the various characteristics of a project:
Characteristics of Projects
- Projects are temporary endeavors
- Every project creates a unique product, result or service
- Projects drive change in organizations; projects are often used as a means of achieving goals and objectives within an organization’s strategic plan
- Projects enable business value creation
- Progressive elaboration is used
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