Basics of Project Management

What is a project?

The Project Management Institute (PM) defines a project as a “temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”

The PMI states that a project is “temporary,” because it must have a defined beginning and ending date and also have a defined scope and resources. It also states that a project is “unique” in the sense that it is not a routine operation, but is instead a set of processes, activities and tasks specifically designed to accomplish the project goal.

A project can be anything from creating a webpage for your business to developing a new marketing campaign or launching a new product or service. You will always initiate a project for a specific purpose, and at the request of somebody, who may be internal (a person or unit/department of your company) or external (a final customer or client).

What is a project manager?

A project manager is the person responsible for the successful management of the project, from inception to closing. The project manager takes a leading role in the project and is the final person in charge of making decisions that will affect the project. As a project manager, you will face a wide range of issues regarding the management of the project, such as dealing with the project team and stakeholders or dealing with unexpected obstacles and project’s risks.

What is project management?

The PMI defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” The project requirements are the conditions, activities and deliverables that need to be completed for a project at a specific quality, cost and time.

Your final goal, when managing a project, is to successfully complete a defined scope (the work that needs to be done at the required quality) within an agreed budget and timeline.  Scope, cost and time form a concept called the “triple constraint” or the “iron triangle”. The fundamental of the triple constraint is that if the scope, duration (time), or cost (resources) of a project changes, at least one – if not both – of the other items will change as well. For example, if the scope of work of your project increases, you will have to increase the resources and probably the duration of the project. If your project’s resources decrease, then you will have to decrease the scope of work and/or increase the time to complete the project. This is important because changes in a project in terms of scope, cost or time are nearly inevitable, so you will have to make a decision about the direction to take when a change in any of the three items happens.


What are the phases of project management?

Project Management can be divided in 5 phases:

  • Project Initiating: involves the high-level conceptualization of the project and assessment of its feasibility.
  • Project Planning: involves detailed planning for each of the aspects of the project.
  • Project Executing:involves all the processes related to implementation of the tasks and development and submission of the deliverables to achieve the objectives established in the project plan.
  • Project Monitoring and Controlling: ensures that tasks are completed in the estimated time and estimated cost and each delivery meets the quality defined in the scope of the project.
  • Project Closing: includes final completion and closure of the project.

Where I can learn more about project management?

There are two major project management certification bodies that provide world-wide recognized Project Management Certificates for Project Managers:  the PMI with the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), and PRINCE2 (Projects in a Controlled Environment) initially developed by the UK Government.  PMBOK is a book that details what a project manager needs to know to manage a project, and it provides techniques to manage projects, based in best practices. PRINCE2 is a project management methodology and software that uses a specific method to manage projects. PMBOK and PRINCE2 are not two excluding approaches, but complementary ones. You may want to combine the best of them, and/or use other methodologies that are specific of your sector or industry.


Activity: task or set of tasks that creates an assigned delivery of the project. Any project activity should have a beginning and ending date.

Budget: approved estimated cost of the project, usually represented as a list of expected expenses for each of the items that carry a cost. A simple project budget template can be downloaded here.

Concept Note: brief description of the idea of the project and the objectives to be pursued, including the potential risks, estimated budget and estimated timeline.

Deliverable: product (e.g. report, document, etc.) or service that is produced as a results of an activity or the project itself and that needs to be handled on a specific agreed date. A project can have various intermediate and final deliverables.

Gantt Chart: project management tool used to track the different tasks involved in a project across a determined period of time, in form of a bar chart. A simple Gantt chart template can be downloaded here.

PERT Chart (Program Evaluation Review Technique) (also called logic diagram): project management tool used to illustrate how different tasks are organized and sequenced in a project.

Process: It is a sequence of repetitive tasks or activities needed to fulfil a specific objective.

Project Goal Statement: written statement of what you want to accomplish with the project and why.

Project Plan: document that describes the main details of the project: scope, objectives, budget, major deliverables, and timeline.

Quality Assurance: is a process that focuses on defect prevention in the processes used to produce a product.

Quality Control: is a process that focuses on defect identification and correction in the finished product.

Scope Creep: refers to significant changes in the project scope overtime (as project planning and execution evolves).

Resources: any input needed to complete a project, such as people and money.

Risk: any potential internal or external event that may have a negative impact on the project, if it occurs.

Scheduling: the process of assigning resources to tasks and tasks to timelines. It involves sequencing activities, assigning resources to activities, estimating the effort needed and the required time of each activity to be completed.

Scope: it is the work that needs to be done (requirements and deliverables) in a project to achieve the project’s goal. It implies the execution of different processes, activities and tasks.

Stakeholder: any person or organization, internal or external, that has an interest in the project, or who may affect or be affected by the project.

Statement of Work: a document that describes all the work that it is expected to be produced by the project (products, services, deliverables and results).

Task: a subset of an activity.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): a project management tool that breaks down the project into smaller parts or work components following a hierarchical decomposition of the work that need to be done to achieve the project’s final goal. This process follows until activities cannot be broken further, or until it doesn’t make sense to broken them further.



The Project Management Institute is a leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project management profession.