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What is a Project?

April 5, 2010

Probably should have answered this question at the beginning of the blog.  This blog is a project, thus subject to progressive elaboration.  It is time to define some terms and today that term is project.

PMBOK™ defines a project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result”.

Harold Kerzner, a foremost expert in the field of Project Management, provides a more detailed list of project characteristics:

  • Have a specific objective to be completed within certain specifications
  • Have defined start and end dates
  • Have funding limits (if applicable)
  • Consume human and nonhuman resources (i.e., money, people, equipment)
  • Are multifunctional (i.e., cut across several functional lines)

Kathy Schwalbe reminds us that projects are not operations. Operations is the ongoing work done by organizations to maintain the business.

Paula Martin and Karen Tate divide the work of organizations into two distinct groups: projects and business processes.  While projects are temporary, have a unique output and no pre-established work assignments; business processes are ongoing, deliver the same product each time the product is run and have predefined work assignments.  Both methods bring value to the organization.  Projects allow organizations to respond quickly to changing marketplace demands, new product development and website development.  Business processes help organizations reduce costs and risks by repeating the same process that provides the same output each time.


Kerzner, H. (2009) Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling.  Tenth Edition.  John Wiley & Sons.

Martin, P., & Tate, K. (2001, May). Not Everything is a Project. PM Network, 15(5), 25.

Project Management Institute (2008). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK guide), Ch 1 & 2. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute, Inc.

Schwalbe, K. (2010). Chapter 2. In Project, Program, and Portfolio Selection and Brief Guides to Project 2007 and @task, (pp. 1-38). USA: Kathy Schwalbe, LLC.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 8, 2010 7:13 am

    I can see that you are an expert at your field! I am launching a website soon, and your information will be very useful for me.. Thanks for all your help and wishing you all the success in your business.

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