Throughout this book, we’ve included advice on how best to use Microsoft Office Project 2003 while following sound project management practices. This appendix focuses on the basics of project management, regardless of any software tools you may use to help you manage projects. Although project management is a broad subject, this appendix uses the “project triangle” model. In this model, you consider projects in terms of time, cost, and scope.
Succeeding as a project manager requires that you complete your projects on time, finish within budget, and make sure your customers are happy with what you deliver. That sounds simple enough, but how many projects have you heard of (or worked on) that were completed late, or cost too much, or didn’t meet the needs of their customers?
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (published by the Project Management Institute, 2000)—referred to as the PMBOK, pronounced “pimbok”— defines a project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.” Let’s walk through this definition to clarify what a project is and is not.
For more information about the Project Management Institute and the PMBOK, see Appendix B, “What’s Next?”
First, a project is temporary. A project’s duration might be just a week, or it might go on for years, but every project has an end date. You might not know that end date when the project starts, but it’s out there somewhere in the future. Projects are not the same as ongoing operations, although the two have a lot in common. Ongoing operations, as the name suggests, go on indefinitely; you don’t establish an end date. Examples include most activities of accounting and human resources departments. People who run ongoing operations might also manage projects; for example, a manager of a human resources department for a large organization might plan a college recruiting fair. But projects are distinguished from ongoing operations by an expected end date, such as the date of the recruiting fair.
Next, a project is an endeavor. Resources, such as people and equipment, need to do work. The endeavor is undertaken by a team or an organization, so projects have a sense of being intentional, planned events. Successful projects don’t happen spontaneously; some amount of preparation and planning happens first.
Finally, every project creates a unique product or service. This is the deliverable for the project, the reason that the project was undertaken. A refinery that produces gasoline does not produce a unique product. The whole idea, in this case, is to produce a standardized commodity; you usually don’t want to buy gas from one station that is significantly different from gas at another station. On the other hand, commercial airplanes are unique products. Although all Boeing 777 airplanes might look about the same to most of us, each is, in fact, highly customized for the needs of its purchaser.
By now, you may be getting the idea that a lot of the work that goes on in the world is project work. If you schedule, track, or manage any of this work, then congratulations are in order: you are already doing some project management work!
Project management has been a recognized profession since about the 1950s, but project management work in some form has been going on as long as people have been doing complex work. When the Great Pyramids in Egypt were built, somebody somewhere was tracking resources, schedule, and the specifications for the final deliverable.
Project management is now a well-recognized job in most industries. To learn more about organizations that train project managers and advance project management as a profession, see Appendix B, “What’s Next?”