Defining Project Management Terminology

This is the end of a busy week in Rio de Janeiro working with the ISO PC236 committee drafting ISO21500 – Guide to Project Management. My particular area of interest is terminology and one of the more interesting debates was around what’s produced and created by a project. The Dutch delegation started the ball rolling with a very well thought out proposal, this is my personal views on what makes sense at the end of a long week discussing this and a wide range of other comments and issues on the standard.

The first line of discussion was around the creation of the projects ‘outputs’, both deliverables and project management outputs.

  • Processes transform one or more inputs into one or more outputs by applying tools of techniques. This applies to production processes used to create deliverables and project management processes used to manage the work of the project. Therefore:
  • Outputs are created by a process. Most outputs are inputs to other processes; many project management outputs are used within the project to manage the work.
  • Deliverables are the final outputs that are transferred to a third party outside of the project, usually either the customer or the performing organisation.

The second, more important line of discussion focused on understanding the project’s goals and objectives. The way these elements interact are:

  • Project Goals describe the overarching purposes for which the project was created. They tend to be wide reaching and related to the expectations of senior managers and clients. The ultimate success of the project is dependent on achieving its goals. There are two broad types of goals:
    • Goals focused around the realisation of the benefits the project was created to enable. Projects rarely deliver benefits directly, see: Value is in the eye of the stakeholder
    • Goals linked to the project achieving is stated objectives.
  • Project Objectives are the direct responsibility of the project manager. He or she should be assigned the authority, responsibility and necessary resources to achieve the defined project objectives. Objectives fall into two broad categories:
    • Objectives that are achieved by undertaking the project work in an appropriate way. These include objectives such as safety, sustainability, workforce development and stakeholder management.
    • Objectives that are achieved as a consequence of successfully completing the project, the deliverables. These include enhancements to the Organisational Process Assets (OPA) of the performing organisation and the assets transferred to the customer.

The successful delivery of ‘deliverables’ includes achieving technical requirements such as time, cost and scope; plus stakeholder requirements such as value and usefulness (see more on stakeholder management).

Whilst benefits realisation it is usually outside of the objectives that can reasonably be assigned to the Project Manager, the project team are responsible for making sure what they deliver is what is needed to facilitate the organisation (or client) in achieving the overall goals the work of the project is central to achieving; see: Avoiding the Successful Failure!.

The question is, does this structure work in for you? Your comments will be appreciated.

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