What is a Project?

What is a Project?

For a simple answer to this question “What is a project?” just look into PMBOK – A standard of Project Management by PMI. As per PMBOK, A Project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. Definition in itself may not be sufficient. Let’s understand what it really means?

Let's understand definition of a project given in PMBOK.

Let’s understand definition of a project given in PMBOK.

Temporary endeavor means, it has a definite start date and definite end date. Except eternal things, everything has a definite start however everything may not have a definite end. A project is always started with a definite end date to complete the project. You might have not planned in detailed, you may not be sure if you will finish the project by that date but until you promise a time line, you may not get the project.  This is one of primary challenges you face when you take up a project. You have committed a project completion date without detailed planning and now challenges with you is that you complete the project within that time line.

Uniqze product, service or result means, you will deliver a product or outcome of the project which is not delivered earlier. There is something new which makes this outcome unique. Let’s take two similar projects and test if they have same or unique outcome. Suppose you have a software product. Two customers ask you to implement the software product in their companies without any customization at all. That means you have to undertake two projects to implement exactly same product in the both the companies. Are these projects same?  They may execute same activities, may deliver same product to customers, they appear same in nature but they are still not same. These projects may have different team members, their location would be different and the environment would be different. As customers are different, their objectives to implement the product would be different, their reasons for executing the projects would be different, they may have different experience and stakeholders would be different. The primary things to check if the projects are different are to check their business case, objectives and purpose for which they have been undertaken.

Now question may arise, what is not project? Operations are not projects. Operations means maintenance, production, production support etc. These operations may have definite start date but may not have a date on which they will be completed, at least at the time of starting. Projects have a target date right at the beginning. Secondly operations may not produce unique outcome. Operations have regular activities and deliver same kind of products on a regular basis. If you have a water bottling plant, you may be producing several cartons of bottles every day. One can pick up any bottle from a carton and that will solve exactly same purpose and therefore they are not unique.

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