Project definition

  • What’s in a name?

    Deciding when and when not to call something a ‘project’ can be confusing. The term is widely used for any undertaking that is temporary and requires a systematic approach.

    For those involved in project management as a profession the word has a precise meaning that signifies a need to adopt a structured approach and specific methodologies. Recognising when these methodologies apply and add value is an essential feature of a well managed organisation.

    The Three-Step Project Test

    There are three simple questions to ask to establish if something is a project:

    1. Are you delivering a defined change such as a new product or service?
    2. Will you be requiring funding or investing resources specifically for this purpose?
    3. Is it a temporary endeavour?

    A 'yes' to all three of the above and you have satisfied the 'Three-Step Test'.
    Congratulations!  It looks like you have a project on the horizon.

    The questions are simple but answering them can be complex:  What do we mean by ‘temporary endeavour’? At what point does an improvement initiative become a change programme? How might the context of the initiative affect our answers?

    Use the links on the diagram to explore each question further. You may find it useful to do this with your teams as part of strategic and operational planning discussions. This will help you reach a collective understanding of which of your planned initiatives should be classified as a project.