What is Project Management? (And why do you need it?)

Projects are what deliver organizations to their future vision. So the #1 thing holding organizations back is project failure. That’s where project management comes in.

This post covers the basics you need to know to understand what project management is, why it’s useful and how to apply it.

Defining project management

Project management is an organized set of people, processes, and procedures working together to provide on-time, on-budget delivery of stated objectives with high quality and satisfied sponsors. It achieves this while still taking into consideration that any successful team effort relies on treating people with respect.

Project management first appeared during World War II as a tool for construction and logistics. The need for enormous amounts of materiel for the invasion of Europe and the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean fostered the development of new ways of planning and scheduling military operations. These approaches were clearly successful, but required practitioners to manage enormous amounts of data—without the benefit of electronics.

After the success of these methods in the war, companies such as DuPont and Remington Arms (which was owned by DuPont) experimented with using them in the civilian sector. Since then, the techniques and philosophy of project management have been widely used in both the public and private sectors of our global economy. 

Characteristics of a project

Textbook definitions of projects vary, but the following is included: 

  • A project is goal-oriented, producing a unique deliverable or set of deliverables.
  • A project consists of connected, related activities.
  • A project has limited duration, which means projects are typified by a predefined schedule and usually tied to a specific end date.
  • A project has elements of uniqueness.
  • Projects are defined by three constraints which must be managed: time, cost, and scope (work content) of the project.

The modern philosophy of project management includes:

  • An emphasis on the organizational support needed for project management (both philosophical and systems support)
  • The artistic and scientific aspects of management which project managers have to bring to the table 
    • Art – Team management, reward/punishment, and management style
    • Science – Scope, risk, quality, cost, and time management systems
    • Both – Communication, resource, integration, and contract management
  • Specific knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques that are useful for managing projects
  • A focus on meeting the needs of the client/customer (internal and external)

The How and Why of Project Management

Reasons for adopting project management tools and techniques usually include some or all of the following:

  • Internal and external competition
  • Pervasiveness of multi-discipline projects
  • Increasingly complex projects
  • Customer demands
  • Technological change

Essentially, organizations see project management as a way to do things better, faster, and cheaper. Project management is a powerful set of techniques, so long as it is used well. So, how do you use it well? 

The Project Management Institute (PMI) was founded in 1969 to promote professionalism in project management. They’ve collected and constantly updated project management best practices—what works and what doesn’t—over many thousands of projects into a record called the “Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK Guide). This guide has been accepted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as the US standard for project management.

Modern project management includes adapting the general principles in the PMBOK Guide to fit an organization’s specific situation. No single approach could possibly fit all industries and organizations on our diverse planet. 

Now that you understand what project management is and why it’s useful, our next post covers what a successful project looks like.

To effectively adopt project management to eliminate project failure within your organization, reach out to us today to set up an appointment to discuss a strategy for your individual business needs. Project Assistants is here to support your business goals, so

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