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Project Management Basics (Part 1 of 4)

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 6/29/2011

Need a primer on project management basics? This series of four articles is the place to learn the basics of project management.

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    Are you new to project management? If you answered, "Yes," here's a quick primer. Let's start at the most obvious place - the beginning.

    What is a project?

    For us, that means we'll answer the question, "What is a project?"

    In terms of project management, a project is always a temporary organization of related tasks set up to deliver an end result. Because projects are temporary, each has a defined start and finish date.

    But, beyond a project's temporary status, there's another key factor that makes a project, well…a project. For any set of tasks to be defined as a 'project,' the end result must be unique. That is to say that what you are looking to achieve through the completion of your project tasks is not something that is a regular, on-going task.

    For instance, assume that you were required to complete performance evaluations for your staff. Typically, performance evaluations are done annually, thus they are not so much unique as they are a job duty. However, implementing a new tracking system for performance evaluations would be unique in that it's something that isn't done on a regular basis (thank heavens).

    What makes a project successful?

    Now that you know what a project is, let's look at what factors determine whether or not a project, when it reaches completion, is successful. Remember the old saying, "The customer's always right." That phrase can apply to determining the success of a project. You see, the primary objective of any project is to ensure product delivery on time, to cost and to the customer’s expected quality. This is just one of many project management basics.

    So, you can tell if a project is successful if you meet the original expectations. But, how do you do that? It's certainly easier said than done. Projects succeed simply through planning and good regular communication. This means keeping those that should know of potential changes informed throughout the project and often going back to the original project stakeholders (those are the people with a vested interest in the outcome of the project) to ask them to agree to a different outcome.

    This different outcome could be any number of things from an increased budget to a new timeline and everything in between. But, the one thing that you can count on is that you will most likely need to go to your stakeholders at least once during your project to redefine the project's deliverables.

    And, ultimately, the success of your project will depend largely upon the degree of happiness among your project stakeholders, the customers, and will have achieved a tangible result.

    Click here to read Part Two in this series on Project Management Basics.

    Image courtesy of Jacob Bøtter

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    Image courtesy of Jacob Bøtter at

Project Management Basics

Need a primer on project management basics? This series of four articles is the place to learn the basics of project management.
  1. Project Management Basics (Part 1 of 4)
  2. Project Management Basics (Part 3 of 4)
  3. Project Management Basics (Part 4 of 4)