Before we talk about how to manage projects, let us make sure we are all on the same page about what a project is. Here is a formal definition. A project is a temporary endeavor that has a unique goal, and usually a budget. That is a start, but what does it really mean?
Let us begin with temporary endeavor. Unlike day to day operations, a project has a definite beginning and end. If a project is implementing a new system, the project is done when you successfully hand it over to operations. What if a project seems to go on forever? It could be that you have not clearly defined what you are trying to accomplish.
That brings us to the project goal. A project produces a unique result, which could be a product, service, or other outcome. In the case study we are using for this course, a hospital is implementing a new scheduling system. Lots of organizations implement scheduling systems, but each one has its own set of objectives, constraints, and issues. Maybe the hospital struggles with staff shortages. Or perhaps a big pain point is scheduling equipment along with the skilled staff and rooms needed to operate it. You could be upgrading the scheduling system to improve results and level of care.
Finally, most projects have budgets. Most of the time, you think money when you hear the word budget. In projects, you will probably face other constraints as well, like how many resources are available.
A project is not the same as operations, which represents work that’s the same day after day, producing the same results. Admitting patients into the hospital represents operational work. Patients may show up with different medical issues, but the people at the front desk follow the same procedures and use the same forms to admit them. Introducing a new scheduling system into the hospital, on the other hand, is a project. It will have a specific beginning, it ends when the system is up and running, scheduling hospital resources. It has a unique goal to solve the hospital’s scheduling issues, and it has a budget, both in money and resources time.
Over your lifetime, you have probably worked on lots of projects, both at work and at home. A project is a temporary endeavor with a unique goal, and usually a budget.
Using those characteristics, think about what you have done over the past several months. Identify the projects you have worked on during that time by identifying the project’s time frame, what made the project unique, and its budget.