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Project Management: basics and characteristics

Project Management
This article is based on the free eBook "Project Management"

Nowadays, project management is regarded as a very high priority as all companies or organisations, whether small or large, are at one time or another involved in implementing new undertakings, innovations and changes etc. – projects! These projects may be individually diverse, however over time, some tools, management techniques and problem-solving approaches have proven themselves to be more rewarding than others in bringing projects to a successful end.


The source of modern Project Management

The development of project management has always been in parallel to the development of general trends in worldwide economics. The 1990’s were all about globalisation; the 2000’s are about velocity and close to the edge of a new decade in which the world maybe has to face an economic recession. Nowadays, almost more than ever, everybody asks for “projects” to return the world economy to its former speed. This also underlines the importance of continuous learning and development of project management capabilities in organisations to allow corporate teams in a fast changing world to work collaboratively in defining plans and managing complex projects by synchronising team-oriented tasks, schedules, and resource allocations.


The basics of Project Management

The fundamental nature of a project is that it is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. Projects are distinguished from operations and from programs.

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Project Management

Every project and as a consequence every project manager has to deal with different targets, different environments and, last but not least, with different people.

A project will deliver business and/or technical objectives, is made up of defined processes & tasks, will run for a set period of time, has a budget and resources. Project Management deals with tracking this process’ execution, from a schedule and cost perspective. It includes functions for developing the optimal project schedule, producing a financial model of the project, scheduling and tracking of effort against plan, managing costs against budget, and reporting of status, to name but a few.


The characteristics of a project

To be temporary signifies that there is a discrete and definable commencement and conclusion; the management of a project requires tailored activities to support this characteristic and, as such, a key indicator of project success is how it performs against its schedule—that is, does is start and end on time?

Therefore, every project has the following characteristics:

  • Consists of temporary activities that have predetermined start and end dates.
  • Uses restricted resources.
  • It has a single goal or a set of goals.
  • All events are to be realized to develop a single and new output.
  • Usually has a budget.
  • Usually a project manager is responsible for co-ordinating all activities.


Projects are usually chartered and authorized external to the project organisation by an enterprise, a government agency, a company, a program organisation, or a portfolio organisation, as a result of one or more of the following features:

  •  A market demand (e.g., a consumer product company authorising a project to develop a new fruit drink for kids with less sugar in response to an increased health awareness)
  • A business need (e.g., a publisher authorising a project to write a new book to increase its revenues)
  • A customer request (e.g., an amusement park authorizing a company to develop a new roller coaster)
  • A technological advance (e.g., an electronics firm authorising a new project to develop a faster, cheaper, and smaller netbook)
  • A legal requirement (e.g., U.S. federal government authorises a project to establish laws for controlling the home loan system)
  • A social need (e.g., a non-governmental organisation authorising a project to raise the awareness of donating blood)

These features can also be called problems, opportunities, or business requirements. The central theme of all these features is that management must make a decision about how to respond and what projects to authorize and charter.

As a result, the thrilling and demanding position of a project manager not only requires a particular set of skills – how to communicate, to control and to motivate people, but also the specific knowledge about tools and techniques required to run a project successfully.


If you want to learn more about the basics of managing projects, take a look at the free eBook “Project Management” written by Olaf Passenheim.