What Is Project Management?

An official definition of project management, courtesy of the Project Management
Institute, defines the term as: “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques
to project activities to meet project requirements.”1
A more tangible (but less interesting) description is that project management is
everything you need to make a project happen on time and within budget to deliver
the needed scope and quality.

In order to really get our heads around these definitions, we need to discuss some
of the terms. A project is distinguished from regular work in that it’s a one-time effort
to change things in some way. So the creation of a new web site would be a project;
ongoing maintenance and minor updates would not.
Time and budget are familiar terms—perhaps the project is intended to take six
weeks and have a budget of $20,000. Scope refers to the list of deliverables or features
that have been agreed—this is where the scale of the required solution is identified.
For instance, creating a new web site for the company may realistically be possible
in six weeks, but rewriting all the accounting software isn’t. Quality is exactly what
it says on the tin, but in project-speak, quality may include not only the quality of
the finished product, but also the approach. Some industries require that particular
quality management approaches be used—for instance, factories producing automotive
parts have to meet particular international standards.


These four aspects (time, budget, scope, and
quality) make up what’s known as the balance
quadrant, which is pictured in Figure 1.1. The
balance quadrant demonstrates the interrelationship
between the four aspects and how a change
to one aspect will unbalance the quadrant. For
instance, an increase in the project’s scope will
have an impact on the time, the cost, and the
quality of the project.2 In practice, any project
decision you or your clients make will have an
impact on these four aspects—will it make the
project more expensive, take longer, be of lower
or higher quality, or affect its scope? Figure 1.1. The balance quadrant
Essentially, project management is a set of skills and tools that will help you get
the project right in every way.

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