What is a Project?
November 12, 2022
In this article we discuss full details of the project, what, how to use and why is required.
A project is a temporary undertaking that aims to create something innovative.
In a professional context, it is the realization of a new product or a new service.
In principle, a project is not a simple idea thrown into the air, but supposes to be described and planned, for example according to the QQCOQCCP method:
A project always fulfills the following conditions:
Planning is the implementation of objectives over time:
The notion of planning is inseparable from the notion of time. Often outlined by a todo list (list of things to do), it then materializes in a plan responding in a detailed and concrete way to the main operational aspects of the QQOQCC type: who, what, where, when, how, how much…
The planning results in a schedule, a document for controlling deadlines and communication that shows the dates of significant events in a project, and whose form must adapt to the messages to be transmitted and the decisions to be made.
The planning is carried out in principle in two stages: first we draw up an overview, then we go into detail:
1. The synoptic schedule shows which important intermediate results are to be delivered, and when; it is therefore result-oriented and loosely structured. Important intermediate results are often marked with milestones.
The synoptic schedule serves as an overview of the project (or project phase) for all stakeholders. It is initially only a declaration of intent (with a large margin of estimation), then becomes a firm decision approved by the management.
2. The detailed schedule shows which activities are to be carried out, and when. It is established for each phase, and assumes that the activities and their interdependencies and durations are known and the resources allocated.
As soon as the detailed schedule is ready, the synoptic schedule can be checked and, if necessary, corrected.
The project manager uses the detailed schedule to lead and control the project team.
It should be noted that modern project management software makes it possible to establish the two levels of planning in an iterative way, so that there is only one planning to follow during controlling .
A milestone is a significant event occurring during a project and of which we can identify with certainty the date on which it occurs. The milestone is reached (or achieved) only when the result is irreversibly acquired: it is therefore often linked to the delivery of an element of the project, the completion of a work package, the end of a phase (for example: supply of a file, receipt of equipment, provision of a service).
The milestone usually involves validation at a high level: important decision, verification and formal approval, signature, etc.
The succession of milestone dates constitutes the schedule of the project and makes it possible to set the main constraints of the dates of the schedules.
The milestone has a dual function:
1. The milestone serves to control the progress of the tasks – provided that it is precisely defined and measurable (when defining it, it must also be specified how it will be measured).
A good project manager does not passively wait for the day when a milestone must be reached: he is active long before, and he checks whether all the conditions are met in order to reach the milestone.
2. Reaching a milestone is a decisive moment for the motivation of the project team: the project manager must coach the team well before reaching a milestone – and congratulate them on a milestone reached.
Note: While milestones are frequently used to monitor project progress, there are limits to their effectiveness. They generally show progress on the critical path, and ignore non-critical activities: indeed, it is not uncommon for resources to be moved from non-critical activities to critical activities to ensure that milestones are achieved. This gives the impression that the project is meeting the planned schedule, while some activities have been neglected…