How Does Defining a Project Relate to Project Planning?

Many people think of "defining a project" as part of the project planning process, and they are correct. It is the first step. However, it is important to make the distinction for several reasons:

  • Logistically, before you develop a detailed and complete project plan, you need to know the parameters and boundaries for the project.
  • Politically, you need to know the key stakeholders are all in agreement with the project mission (project purpose, goals, objectives, and success criteria) before proceeding forward.
  • Practically, the work to properly define a project is often not trivial. In fact, many process-focused and disciplined organizations handle "project definitions" as separate projects. Common examples include business case development projects, cost-benefit analysis projects, selection projects, and assessment projects.

    As with all project management processes, the time and rigor invested should be consistent with the size and risk level of the project.

    As a general guideline, 20% of the total project duration should be invested in definition and planning activities.

  • Historically, people have learned that detailed project planning and general project management are inefficient, and difficult at best, if project definition is not performed.
  • Financially, effective execution of the project definition process enables the organization to leverage portfolio project management processes. This should allow the organization to better invest their limited resources into initiatives that offer the greatest return.


Portfolio project management is a management practice that brings rigor and diligence to the project definition process. It is a management practice that allows executives to make better decisions regarding which projects to fund, gives them visibility to all targeted enterprise projects throughout the project lifecycle, and applies a consistent set of performance metrics and criteria to better compare project performance. It as a management practice that attempts to bring an end to projects that are not organizationally aligned, not prioritized, not resourced properly, and not monitored closely. Some of the key benefits of this approach to an organization include

  • Requires each potential project to be fully defined up front.
  • Engages the executives in the project selection and prioritization process, using a consistent, objective approach.
  • Ensures that individual work efforts are prioritized and focused on most important projects.
  • Maintains executive visibility on targeted projects. This helps maintain organizational alignment.
  • Allows executives to identify "troubled" projects earlier. This provides them more options, and it allows them to re-allocate valuable resources much quicker.

Part i. Project Management Jumpstart

Project Management Overview

The Project Manager

Essential Elements for any Successful Project

Part ii. Project Planning

Defining a Project

Planning a Project

Developing the Work Breakdown Structure

Estimating the Work

Developing the Project Schedule

Determining the Project Budget

Part iii. Project Control

Controlling a Project

Managing Project Changes

Managing Project Deliverables

Managing Project Issues

Managing Project Risks

Managing Project Quality

Part iv. Project Execution

Leading a Project

Managing Project Communications

Managing Expectations

Keys to Better Project Team Performance

Managing Differences

Managing Vendors

Ending a Project

Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
ISBN: 078973821X
Year: 2006
Pages: 169 © 2008-2020.
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