A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service.
The word project comes from the Latin word projectum from projicere, "to throw something forwards" which in turn comes from pro-, which denotes something that precedes the action of the next part of the word in time (paralleling the Greek πρό) and jacere, "to throw". The word "project" thus actually originally meant "something that comes before anything else is done". When the word was initially adopted, it referred to a plan of something, not to the act of actually carrying this plan out. Something performed in accordance with a project was called an object. This use of "project" changed in the 1950s when several techniques for project management were introduced. With this advent the word slightly changed meaning to cover both projects and objects. However, in certain projects there may still exist so called objects and object leaders, reflecting the older use of the words.
- Temporary means that any project will have a start date and end date (but it has nothing to do with short duration).
- Project produces unique results: meaning the product or service at the end of the project should be some way different than the existing (can be an invention or an innovation.)
- Projects are characterized by progressive elaboration: due to uniqueness and greater uncertainty projects cannot be understood entirely at or before project start, and therefore planning and execution of projects is happening many times in separate steps or phases. As project progresses, project team understands next steps, deliverables and way of execution much better. Based on this knowledge team members elaborate initial draft plans, and execute next phase of the project based on these detailed plans.
Projects differ from operations, because operations are continuous and repeating (projects are temporary), and operations deliver the same or almost the same results (project results are in contrast unique).
A project usually needs resources to deliver its results. Most of the time project execution is based on detailed plan, which considers also external factors and constraints. Planning, execution and controlling of project is the primary field of project management. For major projects it is necessary sometimes to set up a special temporary organization, consisting of a project team and one or more work teams.
Major projects can be divided into subprojects, and program denotes collection of related projects.
Projects can be categorised based on different aspects.
Based on project content
- Construction projects
- IT projects
- Product development projects
- RD projects
- Organisation development projects
- Logistics projects
- Marketing projects
- Community projects
- Cultural projects
Based on initiating or participating organisation
- Internal projects
- Departmental projects
- Cross unit projects
- External projects (customer facing projects)
Based on complexity
- Simple projects
- Complex projects
- Manhattan Project: Developed the first nuclear weapon
- Project Apollo: Landing a man on the moon