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What is a Project?

Esther Cohen | June 22, 2022 | 3 minute read

 

A project is a temporary effort to generate value through the creation of a unique product, service, or result. 

 

What are some examples of projects? 

 

  •     The construction of a monument 
  •     The organization of a surprise birthday celebration
  •     The development of software for an improved business process
  •     The relief effort after a natural disaster
  •     The expansion of sales into a new geographic market

 

What are the defining qualities of a project?

 

While projects can vary hugely in size, purpose, and outcome, they all share certain characteristics.

Every project has:

  •       A beginning and an end

Projects differ from routine operations—the usual ongoing activities of a company, individual or organization—because they do not continue indefinitely.

Although completing a project can take days, months, or even years, all projects have a definite start and finish. The conclusion of a project occurs either when it has achieved its purpose or when financing for the project runs out. 

 

  •       A purpose

Whether it’s adding a fishpond to your backyard or building a bridge 100 miles long, every project has a purpose. 

No two projects are the same, so each one produces a new and unique product, service, or result. This can be achieved either by modifying an existing product, service, or result or by creating something from scratch. 

 

  •       A lifecycle 

Projects are typically divided into distinct phases such as ‘design,’ ‘build’ and ‘test.’ This makes it easier to plan the tasks needed to complete the project and monitor their progress.

What phases a project has depends on its deliverables. Together, the phases make up the project’s lifecycle. 

 

  •       Resources

The resources of a project are the people, capital, and/or material goods and equipment required for the project to be executed and completed successfully.  

Usually, a group of individuals with specific skills are needed to complete the project. This human resource is known as the project team. Team members can be located within one office or scattered all around the globe, working in multiple time zones.

 

  •       Requirements 

Every project has a set of expectations which the project team must meet. The project cannot produce its desired outcome or benefit unless these capabilities are delivered. 

Requirements can be functional or non-functional. A functional requirement is something that the project’s product must do to satisfy specific needs of its users. Non-functional requirements are qualities that the product must have, such as security and usability. 

 

  •       A schedule and a budget 

The project schedule defines the tasks that must be completed for the project to be finished. It records the resources necessary to complete each task together with an estimate of how long each task will take.

Once the resources and schedule of the project have been determined, costs can be estimated, and a budget drawn up.   

 

  •       Risk 

Even the most rigorously planned and expertly managed project can be impacted by an unforeseen circumstance.

Although actions can be taken to minimize risk, and contingency plans can be made to reduce its impact, no project is immune from certain risks. These include extreme weather events, a cost increase that couldn’t be predicted, or the sudden exit of a key team member who quit their job after winning the lottery.

 

 

How are projects completed?

It depends on the size, nature, and complexity of the project! You may not need any help or much planning to complete a simple project like building a birdhouse for your garden. However, companies and organizations with complex and sophisticated projects to complete typically entrust the work to project professionals—people who either intentionally or by circumstance are asked to ensure that a project team achieves its goals.

Project professionals use project management (the application of processes, methods, skills, knowledge, and experience to achieve specific project objectives according to agreed criteria and within agreed parameters) to meet the needs of a project. 

While there are many different styles of project management, they all involve organizing the tasks needed to complete the project and bringing together individuals with the skills needed for those specific tasks. 

 

What different types of projects are there?

Projects can be classified based on a variety of factors including complexity, content, purpose, source of capital, and who is involved.

In project management, a traditional project is run in linear phases that must be completed in sequence. These phases typically include initiation, planning, execution and monitoring, and verification.

By contrast, an agile project is iterative, adaptive to customer feedback, and typically has a shorter turnaround time. 

 A virtual / remote project is one in which team members are dispersed geographically but are working together to accomplish a specific task under time and resource constraints. 

 

Why are projects useful?

Projects offer individuals and organizations a way to achieve their business and non-business objectives more efficiently.

They require work to be planned, executed, and monitored according to a standard methodology, helping changes to be completed in an organized and thoughtful manner. 

Planning tasks before starting work identifies potential problems and reduces the probability of failure.

Working within a project structure ensures visibility through reporting and helps to manage risk, cost, quality and change requests. 

For companies and creative agencies, having a clear and organized plan of what needs to be done and who needs to do it reduces confusion and improves collaboration. 

Creative project managers, tasked with communicating with clients and stakeholders and managing creative teams while moving projects toward completion, may find project management software to be an invaluable tool.

Project management software can assist with project planning, assignment delegation, creative asset development, live status updates, change request management,  monitoring and more. 

 

Some creative agencies do what they love. Others do what they love and do it profitably.

Toolbox Creative used to be in the first category. Now, they’re in the second. Read the full study on how Toolbox improved profitability by 937%! (no, that's not a typo)