A Project has distinctive attributes, which distinguish it from ongoing work or business operations.

Projects are temporary in nature. They are not an everyday business process and have definitive start dates and end dates. This characteristic is important because a large part of the project effort is dedicated to ensuring that the project is completed at the appointed time. To do this, schedules are created showing when tasks should begin and end. Projects can last minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years.

Projects exist to bring about a product or service that hasn't existed before. In this sense, a project is unique. Unique means that: this is new; this has never been done before. Maybe it's been done in a very similar fashion before but never exactly in this way.

In contrast with Projects, Operations are ongoing and repetitive. They involve work that is continuous, without an ending date, and you often repeat the same processes and produce the same results. The purpose of Operations is to keep the organization functioning while the purpose of a Project is to meet its goals and to conclude. Therefore, Operations are ongoing while Projects are unique and temporary.

The project is completed when its Goals and Objectives are accomplished.

It is these Goals that drive the project and all the planning and implementation efforts undertaken to achieve them. Sometimes projects end when it is determined that the Goals and Objectives cannot be accomplished or when the product or service of the project is no longer needed and the project is cancelled.

The temporary nature of projects indicates a definite beginning and end. The end is reached when the project's Objectives have been achieved or when the project is terminated because its objectives will not or cannot be met, or when the need for the project no longer exists.

Examples of projects:

  • A project might involve establishing a new product or service, developing an existing product or service or discontinuing a product or closing a service that is no longer required.
  • A project might arise from recognition of new needs of customers or service users or from an opportunity that is expected to deliver benefits to the organisation.
  • Projects might also arise from a new organisational requirement, for example, as a response to a change in legislation that requires changes in employment systems or in health and safety procedures. In such a case, the project could be investigating the extent of change necessary and reporting recommendations to a decision-making body or the implementation of the change to the point where routine working could be resumed. (The routine work that followed the change would no longer be a project.)