This unpublished paper was first written in February 1996 and has since been revised several times and is now updated for web presentation.

Note: The Project Management Institute, USA, has adopted the acronyms "PMI", "PMBOK", "PMP" as their registered marks.
Published here May 2003.

Background | Terminology | The Nature of Projects | Unique Features of Projects
What Projects are Not | General Observations on a Project Body of Knowledge
The Life Span of Projects
 | Elements of the Project Life Span

Unique Features of Projects

There are some unique features that distinguish a project from other types of corporate activity. One of the most striking features is that in creating a project there automatically follows its "death sentence". That is because projects have a defined start and end time. Moreover, the end is forecast/projected/
established/mandated/knowable once the project starts. Simply put: you are in business to get out of that business as fast, as soon and as profitably as possible. And when you've finished you don't have anything else to do!

No other human endeavor comes to mind that carries within it the seed of its own extinction. True, annual campaigns such as the United Fund Drive or the Girl Scout cookie campaign, have a definite end date at the time they're initiated but every one expects them to "come round again next year". In the case of a project, all that should remain is the product of the project and a whole complement of satisfied stakeholders.

A project always has associated with it certain resources. Such resources may be any combination of time, funds, talent, knowledge, services, personnel, space, facilities, equipment, materials, and so on. These resources can be of multiple kinds: used-and-returned; used-and-delivered-with-the-product; used-and-consumed; generated-by-project-activity; limited life or time-dependent; etc. The kind will typically vary with the project's life span stage of the project. The variety of resources employed in project activities, and often the duration and criticality, is typically an order of magnitude above those found in most other corporate activities.

It is often true that a much wider range of internal (corporate) resources will also be involved in project activities. These can range from the five-minute signing of the funding arrangements by the Treasurer (critical to project progress) to the arrangements for a procedures audit to satisfy a client request in connection with a payment release. To add to the difference, the range and degree of external or procured resources applied on a project is often orders of magnitude greater than that experienced by normal corporate procurement activities.

The nature of the relationships that exist over the life of a project's effort is another unique feature. Typically, all the relationships are temporary, as is the project itself. Also all the participants, stakeholders, onlookers, supporters, detractors, suppliers, customers, and competitors know that these relationships are temporary and will cease totally when the project is finished.

It is this fluid and ever-changing area of relationships that has lead to the characterization of project management as "The art and science of managing interfaces".

The Nature of Projects  The Nature of Projects

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