What is a Project?
The origin of the word “project” (from the Latin “pro”, meaning forward, and “jacere”, meaning throw) is “late Middle English (in the sense ‘preliminary design, tabulated statement’) and from the Latin ‘projectum’, meaning something prominent” (Walding et al., 2004). “A project is an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim” (Oxford Dictionary, 1933).
Kozak-Holland (2011) goes on to explain that the word “project” originally meant something that comes before anything else is done. When the word was initially stated, it indicated to the plan to do something, not to the act of actually carrying out the plan. Something performed in accordance with a project was called an object. This meaning changed use in the 1950s, when several techniques and methods for project management were introduced; in this era, the word changed meaning slightly to include both projects and objects.
Many authors give guidelines for how to manage projects, yet they often lack precision with regard to what they consider a project (Munk-Madsen, 2005). They sometimes proffer the guideline as applying to a larger class of phenomena than just projects, and at other times, apply the term to a subclass of projects such as engineering projects (AIPM, 2008; APM, 2012; PMI, 2013).
There are several definitions of projects in academic literature. Gittinger (1972) defines projects as a whole complex of activities involved in using resources to gain benefits. In 1982, he added that projects form a clear and distinct portion of a larger or less precisely identified program. Tuman (1983) states: “a project is an organization of people dedicated to a specific purpose or objective. Projects generally involve large, expensive, unique, or high risk undertakings which have to be completed by a specific date, for a specific amount of money, with some expected level of performance. At a minimum, all projects need to have well defined objectives and sufficient resources to carry out all the required tasks” (p. 498).
Declerck et al. (1983, 1997) offer a generic definition of a project as “a whole (set) of actions limited in time and space, inserted in, and in interaction with a politico-socio-economic environment, aimed at and tended towards a goal progressively redefined by the dialectic between the thought (the project plan) and the reality”.
Turner (1999) noted that “a project is an endeavour in which human, financial and material resources are organized in a novel way to undertake a unique scope of work, of given specification, within constraints of cost and time, so as to achieve beneficial change defined by quantitative and qualitative objectives” (Turner, 1999, p.8). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMI, 2013, p.2) defines it as: “a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result”. It can therefore be said that a project is temporary, with a defined scope and resources. A project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal “.
In addition to the above statements, a project is typically an activity for which money will be spent in expectation of returns, and which logically seems to lend itself to planning, financing, and execution as a unit. It is a certain activity, with a starting point and a certain ending point, intended to achieve specific objectives (Prabhakar, 2008). Usually, it is a unique action noticeably different from previous, similar investments, and it is likely to be various from succeeding ones, not a routine segment of on-going processes (Gittinger, 1982). It works with a well-defined sequence of production and investment activities, and a specific group of advantages, that can be identified, quantified, and usually determine value for money. Often, a project will have a partially or wholly independent administrative structure and set of accounts that is funded through a specially defined financial package (Merrett, 2001).
The project statement should not be a gathering of technical information, but should define what is to be done, why it is to be done, and what business value it will provide to the state organisation when the project is completed (Fuchs, 2006). Components of the project statement are shown in the following figure.
Figure 2.1 Key questions to be answered during the concept phase
As maintained by Nilsson and Söderholm (2005), planning is an intrinsic feature of projects. Plans are meant to build and guide the project team members as they work on realising the project goals that have been set out for them. From all these definitions, one can see that there are some specific attributes that define a project and separate it from most ordinary work:
· A project has a beginning and an end (Prabhakar, 2008; PMI, 2013).
· A project has limited resources (Turner, 1999; Prabhakar, 2008; Gasik, 2011).
· A project follows a planned, organised method to meet its objectives with specific goals of quality and performance (Prabhakar, 2008; PMI, 2013).
· Every project is unique (Turner, 1999).