Back to Course Home

Introduction

Although in practice major “projects” have been conceptualised and completed throughout history, it is only in the last couple of decades that the subject has appeared to any extent in management literature. Increasingly we see seminars and training development courses on “project management” specifically, as well as specialised computer software programmes for Project Managers and project management.

Perhaps the reason for the emphasis on project management is that it is concerned with the management of resources, including the most expensive resource of all – namely the human resource. It is no longer the case that a few thousand slaves can be deployed to build some architectural extravaganza regardless of their safety. Everything now depends on getting things done on time and within cost budgets. Moreover, there is competition both in landing the contracts and in their successful completion and delivery. Management is typically defined as “getting results through people”, and “project management” can be defined as “achieving successful project completion with the resources available.” Typically, these resources include time, money, materials, equipment and people.

Project management is a separate and distinct function that is performed independently of, but in conjunction with, contractors/construction managers, speciality engineers, architects and system designers.

As with most professions and specialized fields, there is a “project management language”: terminology associated with the planning and implementation of projects.

This section serves to introduce participants to the concepts and definitions of the terms: projects and what is meant by project management.

WHAT IS A PROJECT?

Organisations perform work. Work generally involves either operations or projects, although the two may overlap. Operations and projects share many characteristics; for example, they are:

  • Performed by people
  • Constrained by limited resources
  • Planned, executed, and controlled

Projects are often implemented as a means of achieving an organisation’s strategic plan. Operations and projects differ primarily in that operations are ongoing and repetitive while projects are temporary and unique.

A project can be defined as: “unique endeavour to produce a set of deliverables within clearly specified time, cost and quality constraints”.

Projects are undertaken at all levels of the organisation. They may involve a single person or many thousands. Their duration ranges from a few weeks to more than five years. Projects may involve a single unit of one organisation, or may cross organisational boundaries, as in joint ventures or partnering. Projects are critical to the realization of the performing organisation’s business strategy because projects are a means by which strategy is implemented.