Project management is the process of leading the work of a team to achieve goals and meet success criteria at a specified time. The primary challenge of project management is to achieve all of the project goals within the given constraints. This information is usually described in project documentation, created at the beginning of the development process. The primary constraints are scope, time, quality and budget. The secondary challenge is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and apply them to meet pre-defined objectives.
The objective of project management is to produce a complete project which complies with the client's objectives. In many cases the objective of project management is also to shape or reform the client's brief to feasibly address the client's objectives. Once the client's objectives are clearly established they should influence all decisions made by other people involved in the project – for example project managers, designers, contractors and sub-contractors. Ill-defined or too tightly prescribed project management objectives are detrimental to decision making.
A project is a temporary endeavor designed to produce a unique product, service or result with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or staffing) undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services. In practice, the management of such distinct production approaches requires the development of distinct technical skills and management strategies.
Until 1900, civil engineering projects were generally managed by creative architects, engineers, and master builders themselves, for example, Vitruvius (first century BC), Christopher Wren (1632–1723), Thomas Telford (1757–1834) and Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806–1859). In the 1950s organizations started to systematically apply project-management tools and techniques to complex engineering projects.
As a discipline, project management developed from several fields of application including civil construction, engineering, and heavy defense activity. Two forefathers of project management are Henry Gantt, called the father of planning and control techniques, who is famous for his use of the Gantt chart as a project management tool (alternatively Harmonogram first proposed by Karol Adamiecki); and Henri Fayol for his creation of the five management functions that form the foundation of the body of knowledge associated with project and program management. Both Gantt and Fayol were students of Frederick Winslow Taylor's theories of scientific management. His work is the forerunner to modern project management tools including work breakdown structure (WBS) and resource allocation.
The 1950s marked the beginning of the modern project management era where core engineering fields come together to work as one. Project management became recognized as a distinct discipline arising from the management discipline with engineering model. In the United States, prior to the 1950s, projects were managed on an ad-hoc basis, using mostly Gantt charts and informal techniques and tools. At that time, two mathematical project-scheduling models were developed. The "critical path method" (CPM) was developed as a joint venture between DuPont Corporation and Remington Rand Corporation for managing plant maintenance projects. The "program evaluation and review technique" (PERT), was developed by the U.S. Navy Special Projects Office in conjunction with the Lockheed Corporation and Booz Allen Hamilton as part of the Polaris missile submarine program.
PERT and CPM are very similar in their approach but still present some differences. CPM is used for projects that assume deterministic activity times; the times at which each activity will be carried out are known. PERT, on the other hand, allows for stochastic activity times; the times at which each activity will be carried out are uncertain or varied. Because of this core difference, CPM and PERT are used in different contexts. These mathematical techniques quickly spread into many private enterprises.
At the same time, as project-scheduling models were being developed, technology for project cost estimating, cost management and engineering economics was evolving, with pioneering work by Hans Lang and others. In 1956, the American Association of Cost Engineers (now AACE International; the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering) was formed by early practitioners of project management and the associated specialties of planning and scheduling, cost estimating, and cost/schedule control (project control). AACE continued its pioneering work and in 2006 released the first integrated process for portfolio, program and project management (total cost management framework).
In 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was formed in the USA. PMI publishes the original version of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) in 1996 with William Duncan as its primary author, which describes project management practices that are common to "most projects, most of the time." PMI also offers a range of certifications.
Project management methods can be applied to any project. It is often tailored to a specific type of projects based on project size, nature, industry or sector. For example, the construction industry, which focuses on the delivery of things like buildings, roads, and bridges, has developed its own specialized form of project management that it refers to as construction project management and in which project managers can become trained and certified. The information technology industry has also evolved to develop its own form of project management that is referred to as IT project management and which specializes in the delivery of technical assets and services that are required to pass through various lifecycle phases such as planning, design, development, testing, and deployment. Biotechnology project management focuses on the intricacies of biotechnology research and development. Localization project management includes application of many standard project management practices to translation works even though many consider this type of management to be a very different discipline. There is public project management that covers all public works by the government which can be carried out by the government agencies or contracted out to contractors. Another classification of project management is based on the hard (physical) or soft (non-physical) type.
Common among all the project management types is that they focus on three important goals: time, quality and budget. Successful projects are completed on schedule, within budget, and according to previously agreed quality standards i.e. meeting the Iron Triangle or Triple Constraint in order for projects to be considered a success or failure..
For each type of project management, project managers develop and utilize repeatable templates that are specific to the industry they're dealing with. This allows project plans to become very thorough and highly repeatable, with the specific intent to increase quality, lower delivery costs, and lower time to deliver project results.
A 2017 study suggested that the success of any project depends on how well four key aspects are aligned with the contextual dynamics affecting the project, these are referred to as the four P's:
There are a number of approaches to organizing and completing project activities, including: phased, lean, iterative, and incremental. There are also several extensions to project planning, for example based on outcomes (product-based) or activities (process-based).
Regardless of the methodology employed, careful consideration must be given to the overall project objectives, timeline, and cost, as well as the roles and responsibilities of all participants and stakeholders.
Benefits realization management (BRM) enhances normal project management techniques through a focus on outcomes (benefits) of a project rather than products or outputs, and then measuring the degree to which that is happening to keep a project on track. This can help to reduce the risk of a completed project being a failure by delivering agreed upon requirements (outputs) i.e. project success but failing to deliver the benefits (outcomes) of those requirements i.e. product success.
In addition, BRM practices aim to ensure the strategic alignment between project outcomes and business strategies. The effectiveness of these practices is supported by recent research evidencing BRM practices influencing project success from a strategic perspective across different countries and industries. These wider effects are called the strategic impact.
An example of delivering a project to requirements might be agreeing to deliver a computer system that will process staff data and manage payroll, holiday and staff personnel records in shorter times with reduced errors. Under BRM, the agreement might be to achieve a specified reduction in staff hours and errors required to process and maintain staff data after the system installation when compared with without the system.
Critical chain project management (CCPM) is an application of the theory of constraints (TOC) to planning and managing projects, and is designed to deal with the uncertainties inherent in managing projects, while taking into consideration limited availability of resources (physical, human skills, as well as management & support capacity) needed to execute projects.
The goal is to increase the flow of projects in an organization (throughput). Applying the first three of the five focusing steps of TOC, the system constraint for all projects, as well as the resources, are identified. To exploit the constraint, tasks on the critical chain are given priority over all other activities. Finally, projects are planned and managed to ensure that the resources are ready when the critical chain tasks must start, subordinating all other resources to the critical chain.
Earned value management (EVM) extends project management with techniques to improve project monitoring. It illustrates project progress towards completion in terms of work and value (cost). Earned Schedule is an extension to the theory and practice of EVM. This theory was introduced in 2019.