A definition of project management

A project is a temporary unique endeavour designed to deliver an output that is required to bring about a change.  Examples include:

• Delivery of a new football stadium
• The introduction of new processes
• The organising and delivery of a conference
• Development of a new IT solution

A project will require a temporary team to be formed which will be led by an appointed project manager responsible for delivering the required outputs (products/deliverables) within an agreed time frame, to an agreed budget and which meets agreed quality or performance criteria. The project starts with uncertainty about its scope, requirements, timescales, costs and quality. The outputs of the project will be used subsequently to deliver business benefits to the host/sponsoring organisation. Examples include:

• Delivery of a new football stadium results in greater revenue due to increased capacity
• The introduction of new processes increases operational efficiency saving time and money
• The organising and delivery of a conference will share best practice and give us access to more potential customers
• Development of a new IT solution will allow old costly legacy systems to be discarded and efficiencies to be made

Although a project is unique it should be delivered by following an agreed process usually designed around a project life cycle. This ensures consistency especially where an organisation undertakes projects on a frequent basis.

What is BAU (Business as Usual)?

BAU is ongoing and routine. It represents the day to day activities of an organisation and examples include:

• The running of a football stadium
• Using processes (such as taking orders, banking money, making sales calls etc.)
• The routine sales activities
• Regular maintenance of the organisation’s  IT systems

BAU has established processes used by a stable team. Often, the outputs of projects will be used by BAU to generate the benefits identified in the project business case. An example is:

The project delivers a new sales process designed to increase revenue from existing and new customers. The sales team (BAU) use the new process to increase sales.

It follows from the above example that if the project does not deliver the ‘right’ outputs then the BAU activity will be unable to generate the required benefits.  Often the temporary project team will be made up of resources from BAU.

Due to the uniqueness of projects they carry greater risk than the ongoing operations/BAU.

What is Project Management?

Project management is the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives (BoK6 definition).

The processes (or components) include:

• A starting or initiation process which identifies the need and the justification for undertaking a project to meet the need
• A defining and planning process which details what the project will deliver (in terms of requirements and scope), how it will be achieved (project strategies), when things will be done (schedules and milestones), who will be involved (organisational design and resources) and how much the project will cost (estimates, budgets, spend profile etc.).
• A monitoring and control process (progress against the plan, forecasting, reporting and taking action)
• Managing the risks, issues and changes on the project
• A learning and closing process (covering the hand-over of the outputs, closing the project, reviewing performance and capturing lessons learned).