What Is a Project?

A project is an event or an exercise containing a set of tasks and resources which can have a particular duration. It is carried out for a specific purpose in an organization, to create a product or service for the market or a client or to change a business process. Since projects have fixed durations, they do have a definite start and an end to them. Multiple projects can go on concurrently or in succession in an organization.

According to the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) 3rd edition, A project is defined as a “temporary endeavor with a beginning and an end, and it must be used to create a unique product, service or result.”

As mentioned in the definition, a project has a fixed duration – a predefined and stipulated timeline in which it must be completed, whether successfully or partially. This timeline can be extended, but that means the project is overdue and is most likely to overshoot the budget and resources allotted to the project. 

The different stages in terms of the nature of the activities undertaken or the time taken to complete them are called phases of a project. Together the phases of a project form the lifecycle of a project. Usually, the stages of a project are the following: Project Initiation, Project Planning, Project Execution, Project Monitoring & Control, and Project Closure.

Read MoreProject Life cycle Phases

Project Initiation: As the name suggests, this is the first stage of the project that entails defining what the project aims to achieve and until when. In this stage, the team presiding over the project decides the objective and the purpose of the project for all the stakeholders and the organizations involved. Primary & secondary goals and the timeline of the completion of the project is also decided. 

Project Planning: After the project has been initiated and all the stakeholders have given it the green light, the project team, under the guidance of the project manager, and at times the PMO starts working on developing a strategy, an effective plan of action for the project.  This plan is formulated based on the goals set and leads to an estimation of the time required, the resources available, and the financial resources to be acquired. The project’s goals should be attainable, realistic, measurable, collaborative, refinable, and timely.

Project Execution: Project execution or implementation is the most significant phase of the project. This is when most project teams see the project vision take shape. In this phase, the project team completes most of the works on the project’s deliverables. A project kickoff meeting, a meeting usually between the project team and the client where the primary elements and deliverables are identified, responsibilities are delegated, and a baseline is set, marks the beginning of this phase. 

Project Monitoring: This phase is carried throughout the execution of the project and spans all the project’s phases. The project manager measures the performance of the project as compared to the metrics identified while planning. Project managers identify KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that are tracked to ascertain whether the project is progressing as expected or not. These parameters that are monitored are the quality deliverables, the effort and cost of resources, and time. Since this phase is concurrent with the execution phase, scope creep is also monitored and controlled. 

The best way to keep track of all project management activities is project management software.

Project Closure: This phase signifies the completion of the project. The final deliverables are handed over to the clients and the resources released. This is an opportunity for the project manager, the organization, and the project team to view the project in retrospect and record the lessons learned, to make amends and improvements for future projects on a personal as well as organizational level. Also, the team members that deserve recognition are awarded and applauded, and contractual services are terminated. This is the formal closure of the project. 

Read MoreProject Management Methodologies

Managing a project professionally requires adopting one of the many predefined approaches called project management methodologies that include the following basic action plan of defining, planning, strategizing, communicating, and controlling a project with variations in the way you carry out these actions. Depending on the methodology or project management technique used, the phases in the lifecycle of the project may vary.