What is Project Management?

Project management is the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people. The development of software for an improved business process, the construction of a building, the relief effort after a natural disaster, the expansion of sales into a new geographic market—these are all examples of projects.

Chinese Bridge

What is a Project?

To understand project management, we must look deeper into what constitutes a project. Essentially, projects are temporary efforts to create value through unique products, services, and processes. Some projects are engineered to quickly resolve problems. Others require extended timelines to produce outcomes that will not need major improvements outside of projected maintenance—like public highways—for example.

Of course, some projects will be a mixture of both these things. This applies to everything from developing new software to planning disaster relief efforts. Still, this is all very general information concerning what a project is. When we break them down more specifically, we see that projects are amalgamations of tasks, activities, and deliverables that must be structured and executed carefully to achieve a desired outcome.

Before an outcome is achieved, each aspect of a project must go through phases of initiation, planning, and execution. This process is known as the project management lifecycle, and it is the lifeblood of successful projects. Moreover, this cycle allows project managers to plan each task and activity meticulously to ensure the highest chances of success. Overall, a project is a well-planned endeavor that follows a lifecycle with a definite beginning and end.

Project Management Lifecycle | PMI

Project Managers Lead Project Management

All projects are a temporary effort to create value through a unique product, service or result. All projects have a beginning and an end. They have a team, a budget, a schedule and a set of expectations the team needs to meet. Each project is unique and differs from routine operations—the ongoing activities of an organization—because projects reach a conclusion once the goal is achieved.

The changing nature of work due to technological advances, globalization and other factors means that, increasingly, work is organized around projects with teams being brought together based on the skills needed for specific tasks.

Leading these projects are Project Professionals—people who either intentionally or by circumstance are asked to ensure that a project team meets its goals. Project professionals use many different tools, techniques and approaches to meet the needs of a project.

Some projects are needed to quickly resolve problems, with an understanding that improvements will be made over a period of time. Other projects have a longer duration and/or produce a product or other outcome that will not need major improvements outside of projected maintenance, such as a highway.

Still others will be a mix of both of these types of projects. Project professionals use a variety of skills and knowledge to engage and motivate others to reach a project’s goals. Project professionals are critical to the success of projects and are highly sought after to help organizations achieve their goals.

For a deeper understanding of what it’s like to manage a project, try Kickoff from PMI, a free, 45-minute digital course and toolkit that guides you through the basics of project management.

Project Management Drives Change

Throughout human history, project management has always been practiced informally, but it began to emerge as a distinct profession in the mid-20th century when a group of forward-thinking individuals from the aerospace, engineering, pharmaceutical, and telecommunications fields realized a changing world needed new tools. Motivated by the need to address the scheduling and resource issues associated with increasingly complex projects, they met to begin to set down and standardize the tools for a new profession. And in 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was born.

Today, we live in The Project Economy, where projects are the driving force behind how work is done, change is realized and value is delivered. In The Project Economy, the worldwide growth of project management proves its value as a:

It is now widely acknowledged that a basic knowledge of project management can provide value to people with a variety of roles in a vast range of endeavors. Project management skills can help a young student working on a science project realize success, or a corporate executive settle personality disputes. These skills can help a nurse streamline shift changes to improve patient response times on their ward. They can help an IT professional deliver innovative software in record time or help a government agency improve the services they provide in a more economical manner.

Learn the Basics of Project Management

KICKOFF is a free, 45-minute digital course and tool kit that guides you through the basics of project management, so you can effectively launch your project(s) from start to finish.

Get Kickoff

Consider Becoming Certified

Research indicates that employers will need to fill nearly 2.2 million new project-oriented roles each year through 2027. The Project Management Professional (PMP)® is the world's leading project management certification. The PMP® supercharges careers for project leaders across industries and helps organizations find the people they need to work smarter and perform better. But anyone involved in The Project Economy can improve outcomes through awareness of specific foundational concepts of project management, described as follows.

Talent Gap Employment Trends Infographic

The PMP® and other PMI professional certifications ensure that you’re ready to meet the demands of projects and employers across the globe. With a PMI certification you can work in virtually any industry, anywhere in the world, and with any project management methodology.

Who is PMI?

As the world’s leading authority on project management, PMI empowers people to make ideas a reality. Through global advocacy, networking, collaboration, research, and education, PMI prepares organizations and individuals to work smarter in an ever-changing and dynamic world. 

Building on a proud legacy dating to 1969, PMI is a “for-purpose” organization working in nearly every country around the world to advance careers, strengthen organizational success, and enable changemakers with new skills and ways of working to maximize their impact. 

Learn about Project Management in Another Language

Learn the Basics of Project Management

KICKOFF is a free, 45-minute digital course and tool kit that guides you through the basics of project management, so you can effectively launch your project(s) from start to finish.

Get Kickoff