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What is Project Management?


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, (referred to a ‘programme’ in the UK) which is 1) 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 realisation. (Thanks for Kevin Lonergan for contributing to this description.)

NOTE: There are many software tools that make project management much more effective and efficient. Software Tools to Do Project Management Process lists software resources. The reader might best be served to read about the overall project management process in the section, “Foundations of Project Management” below, and then review some of the software tools. Another approach is to review the tools as the reader progresses through each phase of the project management process.

Overviews of Project Management

The following links provide an overview of project management:

Project Management
Solid Overview of Project Management
Origins of Modern Day Project Management & Trends in Recent Decades
Developing a Project Management Best Practice
Project Management Simply Explained
Finding Humor in Project Management
From Project Management to Program Management
Is PM Just Common Sense?
Some Project Management Standards and ‘Bodies of Knowledge’
Successful International Projects
Does It Have To Be So Hard?
Project Success for the Small Business
Creating a Successful Project Manager Resume – a Step by Step Guide

Also consider
Glossaries of Project Management Terms

Basics of Project Planning

It will benefit the reader immensely to have an understanding of at least the basic planning processes before undertaking the  more detailed process of project management. See Basic Guidelines for Successful Planning Process. Planning is all about asking questions, making decisions and solving problems, so it also will be useful for the reader to have some guidelines for Decision Making and  Problem Solving.

There are numerous other topics in the Library that could pertain to project management, but the reader might best be served to  first review the resources linked from this topic on Project Management and afterwards see Related Library Topics.

Some Popular Approaches to Managing Projects

Now that you’ve gained an understanding of the overall project management process, it’s useful to consider how projects could be managed. One traditional approach is to define and deliver your project through distinct phases. Here are two approaches that further enlighten how you might think about managing your projects. Project management methods fall broadly into two camps: predictive (planned) and iterative (evolving).  The most common predictive model is Waterfall and its derivatives and the most common iterative methods follow the principles of Agile.

‘Fusion’ Project Management

Agile Project Management

Agile is not a method – it is an approach (a set of values and principles) covering the development aspect of projects, e.g. software development. When combined with methods (such as Scrum) that support Agile principles, the result is an Agile development process. Agile methods mainly cover the (technical) development activity itself.  On many larger projects there are also other elements that need to be managed which Agile methods typically do not cover.  These are covered elsewhere across this guide.

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