Characteristics of a project

There are elements which are common to each and every project. The qualities that help in understanding the nature of projects for effective project planning and control are known as the characteristics of projects. These characteristics include:

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i. Uniqueness in purpose
ii. Temporal
iii. Development in progression
iv. Resource-specific
v. Uncertainty

1) Uniqueness in Purpose

A project must be specific in its purpose and thus must be well defined, that is, it must have a single definable purpose. The uniqueness is defined in terms of product, service and result. This then means that a project must have a detailed structure, goal, benefits milestones and costs. With this known, a careful planning as well as input from project team members led by Project Manager will ensure proper execution and control leading project to a successful end.

For instance, in a project involving building houses, the second house may be different in: location, design, owner(s) and fittings to the taste of owner(s).

2) Temporal

A project must have a time bound; that is, a definite beginning and a definite end. Therefore, when a project is being planned, timeframe should be very clear. A definite time frame enables planning, development, execution and eventually closure of the project. A well planned project should not run forever.

Since a project is goal oriented, upon achieving the goal then it is disbanded or if need be, the project team is reconstituted to start work on a new project (which is unique in itself).

3) Development in progression

During the initiation or conceptualization stage, the project usually broadly outlined but as it advances, more details are added and adjustments as well are accommodated. This fine tunes the project, making it clearer in purpose. However, it should be noted that any adjustments on the project’s time table should be justified by the project team; this is because these adjustment come with opportunity costs and financial costs.

It is quite difficult to understand a project in totality at or before it starts; and therefore planning and execution usually happens many times in separate stages. This can be illustrated below by resonance arrows between planning and controlling; and between controlling and execution phases.

4) Resource-specific

For any project to be accomplished successfully, appropriate resources must be used. It is obvious that no project can move from the initial phase to completion or closure phase without resources which are specific to the project. The resources include human resource, financial and time among other resources.

It is worth noting that three phases of a project, that is, planning, execution and controlling require a lot of resources and more specifically human resource. For large projects, some organisations may set a special temporary organisation made up of a project team and in some cases more than one work team. Thus resource need depends on a project in question, and this need in itself is unique as the project.

However it should be noted that by nature resources are limited and therefore must be effective and efficiently used for the project be of benefit to the stakeholders. If the project team fails to use specific resources in accordance with the project plan, the project may fail to address it relevance despite a waste of resource and thus might become a useless entity.

5) Uncertainty

Each and every project is unique and thus makes projects difficult to be projected in terms of time of completion and cost. Individual projects are implemented in contexts which are not similar; this interaction may have effect on a project that can neither be predicted nor estimated. In other words, how one project was controlled cannot be used in controlling another project.

Therefore the project management team must look at a project in its uniqueness and prepare for eventualities as it interact with the external environment in which it is being executed. This unfamiliarity that comes with each new project sometimes may include new technology and thus for effective planning and control, the project team must constitute strategies on how to deal with the elements of uncertainty and risk involved in project execution.

In conclusion, the above characteristics of a project are vital to planning a project that comes to a closure having accomplished its goal successfully.


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