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1 - What is a project

The PRINCE2 definition of a project is:

‘A management environment that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to a specified Business Case.’

The ‘temporary organisation’ needs to be big or complex enough to justify producing a Business Case and setting up project management controls.  If work can be managed simply as a ‘line management task’ then a full project structure is not needed, although it is essential that the reason why the work should be carried out is clear.  However, it is helpful to consider employing some of the techniques used in project management e.g. planning the work thoroughly (a work package could be used for this), stakeholder engagement (working out what you tell interested parties and when) etc.

See below for some handy hints on how to distinguish projects from business as usual:

  • In order for a project to be created, a Business Case must exist. The Business Case may be developed in advance of the project, or it may be developed as part of project start-up
  • A project is created to deliver something – one or more business products or services. Planning the project will involve defining exactly what should be done in order to deliver the products or services
  • A project is cross-functional – involving a team of people with different skills working together temporarily to introduce a change that will impact others outside the project team
  • Projects are temporary things, each with a defined start, middle and end. Projects do not just happen, nor do they go on forever
  • Projects involve more uncertainty, and therefore will introduce more risks (both threats and opportunities) than business as usual’

Project or Programme?

A programme is:

‘A temporary flexible organisation structure created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits relating to an organisation’s strategic objectives.  A programme may have a life that spans several years.’

Clearly there are similarities between projects and programmes – both are temporary and seek to achieve benefits.  However, projects typically produce or change something (products) and are then disbanded, whereas programmes are less focussed on delivering specialist products and more concerned with coordinating the work of a set of related projects, to manage the outcomes and aggregate benefits. They are often established to deliver a strategy, or when an organisation decides to transform operations or services from their ‘current state’ to an improved ‘target end-state’.

Types of Project

The Council recognises three categories of project:

  • Corporate projects (large)
  • Directorate projects (medium)
  • Service projects (small)

The type of project is dependent on the issue/s, scale, cost and expected impact of the project.  However, all projects should relate in some way to the Council’s priorities or key objectives in the Strategic Plan. Corporate projects are the most important to identify as they are the highest cost and carry the most risk. Progress on corporate projects must be reported to CLT. Please contact the Transformation Team if you are planning to start a corporate project so the project can be added to the corporate projects list.

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