What does project management mean

Project management (PM)

Table of Contents

  1. term
  2. Differentiation from other, similar terms
  3. aims
  4. PM methodology and process model
    1. Project definition
    2. Project implementation
    3. Project completion
  5. Current developments


PM comprises the management tasks, organization, techniques and resources for the successful completion of a project. DIN 69901 defines project management as the entirety of management tasks, organization, techniques and means for handling a project. More generally, the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the PMBOK defines PM as the application of knowledge, skills, methods and techniques to the processes within a project.

Differentiation from other, similar terms

Program management (as the management of a large-scale project with several projects and sub-projects with common objectives, a duration of several years and a large budget) and multi-project management can be distinguished from PM - in the sense of individual project management. The latter relates to the planning, control and monitoring of projects in a project portfolio of a company or a unit and its alignment with the company's goals. The PM methodology describes the logical sequence of PM tasks in the PM process. International associations such as PMI or IPMA (GPM) or the Office of Government Commerce, GB with Prince2 deliver standards.


With the help of PM, the project handling to achieve the project goal in the required quality, planned time, with optimal use of human and capital resources should be designed efficiently.

PM methodology and process model

The PM methodology comprises the sequence of the PM tasks, project definition, implementation and completion, with which the PM results are achieved.

Project definition

As part of the order clarification, the initial analysis serves to examine the project subject and the project environment (especially through an analysis of the stakeholders). The project goal is clearly and completely, measurable, realizable and defined in a timely manner. The most important requirements for the project result, the subsequent acceptance criteria and the delimitation of the project are described. Risks that can jeopardize the project goal, but which may be consciously taken, are identified. In the risk analysis, the potential risk is assessed with the extent of damage and the probability of occurrence. Preventive measures for avoidance and countermeasures in the event of occurrence are developed. Countermeasures and risk surcharges are included in the project plan. As part of the rough planning, the project is broken down into a project structure plan according to objective, functional and / or time-related criteria. Sub-projects are defined depending on the scope of the project. Phases with work packages and milestones are defined. An initial effort and resource estimate is made. Process models with the phases and work packages typical for the type of project provide assistance in structuring. The required qualifications are derived from the work packages named in the structure plan and then assigned to roles and, if possible, to people. A description of the project organization follows. For a successful introduction of the project organization, the clear definition of the roles and committees with their decision-making powers and responsibilities and the reporting channels is important. The project organization includes at least the client (customer), project manager (project manager) and the project team. The project manager has project-related and usually technical authority to issue instructions to the project team (matrix project organization). The detailed planning is based on the time-based work breakdown structure and names - initially for the first project phase (s) - the necessary activities (or processes) with their dependencies. Personnel expenses and costs are estimated and resources are allocated taking their availability into account. The availabilities are recorded in the staff deployment plan based on the appointment calendars of all project team members. On this basis, a binding implementation plan (bar or network plan) with specific dates (duration) is created. The cost planning is detailed. By determining the cash costs, a project-related financial resource planning can be derived and, if necessary, project financing can be initiated. The subsequent profitability calculation compares the quantifiable benefit with the total costs (including personnel costs) and provides an essential decision-making parameter for the implementation of the project. The agreements on deliveries and services of the contractual partners (especially the client and project manager as the contractor) are documented in writing as a project contract within the framework of internal and external contract management. At the end there is a project launch meeting (kickoff event), in which all project participants are comprehensively informed. Project goal, risks, planning are discussed and project rules are developed. The aim is the ability of all parties to act from this point in time for the entire duration.

Project implementation

The project planning is gradually refined, work orders are issued and processed. Project controlling includes planning and control tasks: target / actual comparisons (based on the network plans and feedback from employees) accompany the progress of the project; Deviations are critically observed (trend analyzes), their effects are forecast and countermeasures are initiated. Problems require decisions, e.g. regarding changes to plan specifications, by a steering committee. Since the project progress is generally no direct statement about the degree of completion is allowed, a remaining expenditure estimate must be made at certain intervals. Alternatively, milestones following one another in close succession with concrete partial results allow an assessment of the project status. As part of risk management, risks are constantly reassessed, countermeasures are initiated and monitored. Significant risks are reported to the company's central risk management system (internal control system (ICS) and / or KonTraG). Cost plans and open item lists are kept up to date. The PM results are continuously documented in a project file (manual). Convincing and trustworthy information and communication within the team and its environment should be reflected in reporting (e.g. status reports or newsletters) and in the discussion culture. Motivation, mutual appreciation, the respectful handling of conflicts and clarity in the tasks are further indicators for successful information and communication. Those affected by the changes caused by the project should be shown understanding in order to counteract uncertainty. It is not uncommon for projects to get into trouble slowly and unnoticed. Good multi-project controlling, comprehensive risk management, audits and an established early warning system can identify undesirable developments and options for action at an early stage. The consequence can be crisis management that leads to project restructuring or realignment. The option of prematurely terminating a project is taboo, especially with long-running large projects and euphoric teams, and is considered and decided much too late.

Project completion

The project manager ensures that the project objective and result are complete and in the agreed quality (in accordance with the acceptance criteria). The client formally accepts the result and relieves project managers and team members. In a final project meeting (touchdown), the team reflects on the course of the project, discusses and documents experiences, findings and suggestions for improvement (learning from experience). As part of a post-calculation, the planning is compared with the actual efforts, deadlines and costs. The benefit dimensions achieved can and should be determined later to review the profitability calculation (benefit collection). The project organization is dissolved.

Current developments

The following trends are emerging:

  • Today, projects are seen as an essential engine for shaping change processes in companies. Projects will therefore be more closely aligned with corporate goals and strategies. As a result, project success will increasingly be measured by its contribution to corporate goals. This does not only apply to the individual project, but also to the project landscape, which in many cases is strongly networked. This is where multi-project management is gaining in importance.
  • Experience from failed projects or those with considerable delays and immense budget overruns attach great importance to systematic risk management.
  • Along with globalization and the various types of outsourcing or off-, near-by-shoring, new challenges arise for the management of projects in an international and intercultural context. This includes the management of virtual project teams - distributed internationally across locations. The social competence of all project participants becomes an important qualification feature.
    See international project management.
  • Maturity models are increasingly being used for the critical evaluation of a company's project competence. The best known here is the reference model CMMI from the Software Engineering Institute. With the OPM3 (Organizational Project Management Maturity Model), the PMI now offers a reference model specifically for project management.