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What is project?

I am currently working on developing project management practices in one organization. I am in the diagnostic stage when I am trying to understand how different departments carry out different projects. For most who are not used to the project management methodology, the question arises: and what is the project anyway?

A project, according to the definition used in the world, is an action that creates something unique: a new unique service, product or a unique result. Each project has a clear beginning and end. But does this mean that every slightest change, even in existing processes, must be considered a project and people should follow the practice of project management?

If we were to follow the definition given, than yes, every action that is not repetitive and creates new result should be treated as a project. However, applying project management practices to each of the slightest changes can result in an increase in costs due to the resulting process steps that should be taken by anyone who wants to implement the change.

On the one hand, applying the practice of project management for every change would help to structure all changes taking place in the organization, large or small. In addition this would help to introduce more transparency - what actually is happening in different parts of the organization and would help to grow the maturity of project management, since all employees would have the opportunity to master and apply project management practices.

However, from a pragmatic point of view, as I mentioned above, applying project management can extend the duration of the implementation of changes, which would lead to higher costs, since various routines applied in project management would have to be carried out.

For this reason, when developing a project management practice in an organization and trying to define what a project is, it is important to define additional criteria that help determine whether this is a project or just a small change that does not require project management practices to be followed. The most common criteria are:

  • cost of a change

  • amount of stakeholders

  • amount of people that will be impacted by the change

  • team size that would be working on the change

  • team composition, i.e. whether team consists of internal or external people

  • amount of process / applications or products impacted by the change

  • impact to key functions, processes or products of the organization

These are more other criteria can be applied, while trying to identify which changes could be called projects and follow project management practice.


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