What is a project?

You have surely been working on projects for some time, but have you ever wondered what a project is?

It seems like an obvious question, but as you will see, it is not. All projects share a number of characteristics that make their management different from operations management or that of a company; knowing them will allow you to better understand the role of the project manager.

Let's go back to the question: what is a project?

There are several definitions of a project, all of which have in common that it is a job or assignment with a defined and unique scope, subject to a series of constraints. This definition has a number of implications that have a great impact on project management and the need for a project manager.

Main characteristics of a project

Scope defined

The scope of the project is that which is intended to be achieved at the end of the project; whether it is a new product, a new service, implementing an organizational change, etc. In all cases the scope is defined, since we do not want just any product, service or organizational change.

Knowing this scope and its characteristics is an indispensable point for the project manager, since its achievement will be a criterion that will define the success or failure of the project. Therefore, part of a project manager job is achieving the necessary level of scope definition so that there is no ambiguity on this point.

Unique scope

Unique project scope means that there are some features that are new or different from what has been done before. This does not mean that everything is new. These features can be both in terms of the product and in terms of the conditions or constraints affecting the project.

Consequently, all projects need prior analysis and planning, since these singularities, however small they may be, affect their development. Likewise, this is the characteristic that separates project management from operations management.


How happy we project managers would be if we had all the resources we needed, when we needed them, and could finish the project at any time. The bad thing is that in this case we would have no work because companies would not need us.

Project management arises from the need to achieve the scope of the project while respecting, or even optimizing, its constraints. Among these constraints we can highlight the delivery deadline, available resources, budget, legal or administrative restrictions, etc.

These constraints play a very important role when planning the project; since planning consists of finding a feasible way to achieve the scope while respecting the constraints. If this is not possible, we say that the project is not feasible.

Additional resources on this topic.....

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