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What is a project?

Causes change

Any project will bring about change in some fashion.
All projects will begin with a need of a customer who requires the change.

Clearly identifiable start and finish

We wish to have a defined starting point and an end date where the project team will disband as the project completes.

For some persons the start of a project may include the initial idea leading to a possible feasibility study.
Under PRINCE2 this would be treated as a separate project leading to the recommendation of an option on how to proceed with the project.
A project requires a definition of the project.
The Project Mandate (which could be a simple feasibility study) is needed to kick off the project under PRINCE2.

Specific aim (i.e. an key objective)

Any project must have definition of the final product.
This is why the feasibility study is not considered as part of the project under PRINCE2 and would constitute a separate project.

Results in something being delivered

All projects will result in something being delivered.
This will be defined in the final product and could vary from a boat to a report.
Whatever is delivered must meet the expectations of the customer.


The project must produce something that cannot be obtained in some other fashion off the shelf by simple purchase.
A project may contain many products some of which could be purchased off the shelf.
PRINCE2 defines all products that the project is expected to produce.

Each project will be unique, with its own problems (hurdles), which must be overcome.

Responsibility of a single person or body

A project cannot be run by 2 masters.
It will be run by the Project Board under PRINCE2 [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] and could be a stand alone project or part of another.
The Project Board may need to report to programme management for certain decisions if the project is part of a programme.

All responsibilities will require clarifying and defining.

Although, overall accountability will be with the Project Board they will delegate responsibility to the Project Manager for planning and the tasks within the schedule that must be delegated to the project management team members.
Hence, project management team members will be accountable for sections of the workload even if they are not actually doing it.

Responsibility can be delegated but accountability cannot.

Involves costs, resources and time

Any project will run over a period of time which will be defined.
It will take up resources both in personnel costs, raw materials and equipment.
Other costs will be financial, for example, in terms of paying the interest on loans.

Uses a wide variety of resources and time

The resource needed and time taken for individual tasks will vary enormously.

In general a project will involve amongst others:

  • Uncertainty and risk
  • It will be influenced by external events
  • Something needs to be delivered against quality, cost and time constraints
  • Health and safety will need consideration
  • A team and other resources will be required
  • It will require monitoring and control
  • It will have start and end dates