More specifically, what is a project? It's a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.
Project management is the planning, organizing and managing the effort to accomplish a successful project. A project is a one-time activity that produces a specific output and or outcome, for example, a building or a major new computer system. This is in contrast to a program, an ongoing process, such as a quality control program, or 2) an activity to manage a number of multiple projects together.
Project management includes developing a project plan, which involves defining and confirming the project goals and objectives, how they will be achieved, identifying tasks and quantifying the resources needed, and determining budgets and timelines for completion. It also includes managing the implementation of the project plan, along with operating regular 'controls' to ensure that there is accurate and objective information on 'performance' relative to the plan, and the mechanisms to implement recovery actions where necessary.
Projects often follow major phases or stages (with various titles for these), for example: feasibility, definition, planning, implementation, evaluation and realization.
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 primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints. This information is usually described in project documentation, created at the beginning of the development process.
The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary — and more ambitious — challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and apply them to meet pre-defined objectives. The object of project management is to produce a complete project which complies with the client's objectives.
In many cases the object of project management is also to shape or reform the client's brief in order to feasibly be able to address the client's objectives.
Once the client's objectives are clearly established they should influence all decisions made by other people involved in the project - for example project managers, designers, contractors and sub-contractors. Ill-defined or too tightly prescribed project management objectives are detrimental to decision making.
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