Introduction to project management

Project management provides structure and control of the project environment so that the agreed activities will produce the right products or services to meet the customer’s expectations.

What is a project?

A 'project' is a set of agreed activities with a definite start, middle and end. Together these activities produce business products or services in line with an approved business case which is sponsored by senior managers within the organisation.

Projects are temporary structures which must be properly managed and controlled in order to meet their stated objectives. They are usually delivered in an environment where both funding and resources are constrained and subject to competition.

Projects may be part of overarching programmes.

Features of project management

A project has a lifecycle, underpinned by a plan, which is the path and sequence through the various activities defined to produce its products. Project management is a controlled implementation of the project plan under the direction of the organisation’s senior management.

Traditionally, a successful project is one that has delivered its products or services according to the project plan, meeting overall business objectives. Project success is now seen more and more in terms of delivering projected business benefits or the capability required for benefits delivery within the business.

A properly managed project will usually have:

  • senior level sponsorship from within the organisation
  • strong leadership, accountability, and governance arrangements
  • a dedicated project manager
  • a project plan and adequate resources to implement the plan
  • clear processes for the management of risks, issues, stakeholders, communications, and benefits
  • effective project assurance arrangements
  • well defined reporting structures and a clearly understood project scope

Some of the key documents usually associated with a properly managed project are:

  • a business case justifying the investment and proposed changes
  • a project initiation document setting out the project objectives and the means for achieving them
  • a project plan setting out the main products or services and all associated resources and activities
  • standards for reporting progress and highlighting issues
  • registers for recording risks and issues and managing their escalation
  • end project and lessons learned reports
  • a post project review report, independent of the project, reporting estimates against eventual outturns including the extent to which projected benefits have been realised

Project management guidance

Project management methods have been developed to help apply a structured approach to managing projects and to aid successful delivery. In government, PRINCE2 (projects in controlled environments) is an accepted standard.

PRINCE2 is widely used in the private sector both in the UK and internationally for all types of project. A PRINCE2 approach should always be applied to government projects.

Project management roles and responsibilities

There are several roles and responsibilities associated with project management, for further information on these roles please visit the ‘Roles and responsibilities' in programmes and projects’ webpage.

What is the difference between a Programme and a Project?

Related articles

Back to top