What is Project Management – Definitions, processes, practices and tools

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Project management (PM) refers to initiating, planning, controlling, controlling, and completing projects. Many terms and procedures in project management are established and standardized.

Demarcation: The complementary counterpart to project management is process management. This standardizes and structures processes that are geared toward the efficient achievement of corporate goals that are not handled in the form of ‘projects’.

Project management (as a special case of processes) can therefore also be the subject of activities in process management

Definition of Project Management

Depending on the source, project management is defined differently in terms of content, but largely in terms of content:

What is project management - processes practices and toolsDIN standard (DIN 69901-5: 2009-01): “The set of management tasks, organization, techniques, and means for initiating, defining, planning, controlling and completing projects.”
ISO standard (ISO 21500: 2012, German standard as DIN ISO 21500: 2016-02): “Project management is the application of methods, tools, techniques, and competencies in a project. It encompasses the interaction of the different phases of the project life cycle. ”
Project Management Institute (PMI): “Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities.” (German: “Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements.” To meet project requirements. “)
UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC): “Project management is the planning, delegation, monitoring, and control of all aspects of a project. This includes motivating stakeholders to achieve project goals within the expected performance goals of time, cost, quality, scope, benefits, and risks. ”
ICB: Others: “Leadership of the project participants for the secure achievement of the project objectives.” ICB understands the methodology of project management even as a guiding principle in the so-called Management by Projects.
Etymology: derives from Latin proiectum, the forward thrown ‘and lat. Manum agere, lead by the hand’.

Introduction to Project Management

Stakeholder expectations

The task of the project manager is to meet stakeholder expectations of the project as much as possible. The most commonly used method for gathering expectations is the project environment analysis. A stakeholder is any person or organization whose interests are affected by the course or outcome of the project.

Magic triangle

The project manager moves between:

  • Time: project duration and dates
  • Costs
  • Content, scope, and quality of the project results

These three variables are in competition with one another, for example in the following situations:

To keep the appointment, overtime is provided and additional staff is employed; this increases the costs. In order to keep costs for a covered project, benefits are canceled; this lowers the quality of the result.

To ensure the quality of the project results, additional time is spent on testing and the deadline is postponed.
To ensure the project’s success, the project manager must first make the interests of the stakeholders transparent and then work together with them to prepare a project plan. Ultimately, a priority of these variables is determined with the client, on which then the project control is built. Project reporting then always describes the project (or the individual result types of the project) in relation to these three sizes.

When the organizational form of an enterprise expects resource conflicts (for example, matrix organization), sometimes a fourth control variable “Personnel” is described. Even if the staff is part of the cost (staff costs), it can be crucial to have specific people in the project. This should be explicitly described and transparent to all stakeholders. Deviations are made transparent in project reporting.

The magic triangle also shows that a change in one of the control quantities automatically results in changes to one or both other variables.

Staffing in Project Management

The project is managed by the project manager. He is responsible to the client for the project and reportable. He is entitled to objectively instruct the project team. Whether he also has disciplinary authority depends on the type of project organization.

The successful project manager needed

  • Knowledge of project management,
  • General management knowledge,
  • Product-specific knowledge,
  • Endurance and resilience,
  • A holistic and sustainable way of thinking,
  • Interpersonal and communicative skills.

In addition to the methodological skills, the social skills of a project manager are crucial for the project’s success. Project management is always a risk or opportunity management: unplanned situations occur in every project. A good project manager makes it clear that he recognizes such situations early on, regains control of them with little friction loss, and takes advantage of the available opportunities. Project managers should, therefore, have experience in communication and conflict management, team building, and motivation. Incentive systems play a central role.

For capacities that are not available internally, the role of the project manager can also be outsourced.

Depending on the size and complexity of the project, tasks in project management can be delegated, shared or worked on in person:

One possibility is to subdivide the project into subprojects that must be clearly separated. One sub-project manager then takes over the control of these subprojects and reports to the project manager.
Another possibility is the division into task areas. For example, appointment and cost management or risk and quality management can each be assigned to specific persons with appropriate qualifications.

Read more about What is Project Management in the Wikipedia-Lab.org article (https://wikipedia-lab.org/what-is-project-management-definition/) that provides details and standard information. STC Montreal is a great project management resource as well. Reference: https://stc-montreal.org/what-is-project-management/

Choosing of Project Management Practices and Methodologies

Due to various structures and methods of project management (PM) (see also Section 4.3f, PM systems, and project phases), for which some own procedure models exist, the choice of the procedure for the implementation of a project (including the project management) mostly depends on:

  • Specifications of the organization or the client (guidelines)
  • Size of the project (for example number of person-days)
  • The complexity of the project, distinguishing between technical and social complexity
  • The industry of the project if an industry/product specific process model is used
  • further project type categorizations such as development project, learning project, maintenance project, etc.
  • Project implementation can involve one or several thousand people. As a result, project management tools range from simple to-do lists to complex organizations with dedicated companies and massive project management software support. Therefore, one of the main tasks of project management before the project starts is to determine which project management methods should be used and weighted in this particular project. Applying all the methods in a small project would lead to over-administration, thus jeopardizing the cost-benefit ratio.

Comprehensive Project Management

Multi-project management

If several projects are controlled and coordinated at the same time, this is called multi-project management. Multi-project management, which is often found in large companies, poses particular challenges to the participants, because here connections. For example, computing resources need to be coordinated across multiple projects. A special case is z. T. also called Enterprise Project Management (EPM); these projects are to be controlled company-wide and across organizations.

What is Program Management?

To be distinguished from multi-project management is the concept of program management. In this case, a program is understood to mean a bundle of content-related projects. Program management, in contrast to multi-project management, is limited in time, similar to a project. Multi-project management, however, can be used indefinitely as a form of company-wide resource management. Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Program_management

Large-scale project management definition and practices

Large-scale project management is similar to program management, with program management usually managing individual projects in one subject area and large-scale project management coordinating the subprojects of a major project.

Project Portfolio Management

Project portfolio management manages the projects of a company. Portfolio Management consolidates the key figures of all the projects of a company, both current and planned. It provides the company management with cross-project information for controlling the entire stock of projects.

Software tools

Almost all areas of project management are now supported by project management software. It allows the project manager to specify the plan contents for the project so that afterward all involved parties can query or register their respective work tasks and progress. They allow an evaluation of the current project status according to various aspects (for example with respect to deadlines or budget compliance), also with the aid of graphical representations (for example Gantt charts). At predefined milestones or at the end, reports are generated.

For certain areas of project management, specially designed software is used. In addition, commonly used software (such as text editing, spreadsheets, …) is often used, in part using templates. Almost all mail systems are used for communication, in virtual project teams or with distributed stakeholders often also web conferencing systems and electronic meeting systems that allow the organization of meetings and workshops over the Internet.

Wikis are also used for knowledge management as tools in project management.

The companies and organizations use PM tools in practice to a great extent differently. In some cases, ERP software is also used that maps the entire company, at the same time has project management functions, and also supports the billing of projects.

Success factors

To the frequent failure of projects, there are always ongoing discussions. Deficiencies in project management are often mentioned as an essential factor.

Professional management is seen as a key success criterion of projects. In particular, are:

  • adequately define the project boundaries and project goals
  • Develop project plans and subject them to periodic controlling
  • To structure projects in a process-oriented way
  • to design the project organization and project culture project-specifically.
  • to develop a specific project culture and
  • to shape the project’s relationship to the project context.

Project management makes a contribution to securing the success of the project, but can not secure it alone, since it also includes other factors such. B. the corporate strategy, competitive situation, etc., which influence the project’s success.

Commitment of stakeholders: ‘sponsor’ for the project, acceptance of the project and its goals
Appropriate Project Infrastructure: Organization, methods, and tools are available
Competence of the persons assigned to the project
In addition, running projects successfully does not exhaust the mastery of PM methodology. Rather, the success is largely determined by the personal characteristics and abilities (“soft factors”) of all involved, including the project manager.

Irregularities and disruptions in the project are referred to as project discontinuities. These can often not be mastered within the framework of normal project management, and require separate methods.

Standards and norms

The standards and standards distinguish between project management methods and process models. While the former refers to certain sub-disciplines of project management (risks, requirements, scheduling, …), one tries with so-called procedural models, the sequence of activities, so the processes for the project and the PM as precise as possible; widespread is the V-model.

The tasks, methods, instruments, and levels of project management are essentially well known and documented. Worldwide, there are associations and committees dedicated to project management. The three best known are:

  • The American Project Management Institute (PMI) with the PMP certification, has published the English-language standard project management project with its Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). Reference: https://agileprogramming.org/projectmanagementcertification/
  • The former UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC) with Prince-2 certification
  • The International Association of Project Managers (IAPM) with the IAPM certification.
  • The International Project Management Association (IPMA) with the IPMA certification.
  • The Bulgarian PMA.bg provides the project management course for Eastern Europe. Reference: https://pma.bg/pm/

Their representations in the countries, in Germany z. GPMs offer certifications at different levels; Details can be found in the articles on the associations.

Basic knowledge about it will be imparted in the degree programs in engineering, economics, and computer science. Standardization institutes and PM associations set themselves the goal of establishing and promoting the widest possible, uniform terminology and terminology. Reference: https://pm.mba/

For practical application, companies/organizations specify in the form of PM manuals, PM guidelines, etc., how the PM can be applied concretely in their projects. The individual specifications relate i. d. R. on standards as they are called in this chapter, but they are often adapted company or situation-specific (reduced, simplified, individually supplemented, adapted to tools, …) and they take into account peculiarities that result from:

  • the subject of the project, such as software development, decommissioning of a nuclear power plant, reforestation of a desert region;
  • the project type – a research or development project, an investment project, or an organizational project;
  • the project size;
  • other circumstances and practices in the company or the organizational culture

International project management standards

  • IPMA Competence Baseline (ICB 4.0): PM standard of the project management association International Project Management Association (IPMA); decentralized organized, in Germany by the GPM
  • PMBOK Guide: Originally US PM Standard of the Project Management Association Project Management Institute (PMI)
  • PRINCE2: now widely used project management method from the United Kingdom
  • HERMES: project management standard from Switzerland
  • DIN 69901: is currently very well received internationally and goes heavily into the ISO 21500
  • ISO 21500: the last version was released in October 2012.
  • BVOP Project Management Certification
  • As an international guideline for quality management in projects, the standard ISO 10006: 2003 has been published.

PGOV.org reveals more topics and describes some of the best project management certification programs. Reference: https://pgov.org/projectmanagement/ The resource is checked and it is modern and latest. See also Best Product Management Training Courses of Medfd.org, https://medfd.org/best-product-management-training-certification-courses/

Project Management Systems

In order to anchor the working and organizational form of project management in a company, appropriate framework conditions and rules of the game are necessary. Comprehensive, high-performance project management systems must be created, which as a rule contain standards, measures, and tools in the following areas:


The organizational anchoring of project management must be clearly clarified in the respective company. These include, for example, the definition of clear roles, competencies, and responsibilities (in particular the interplay between line and project), the establishment of a central organizational unit for project management (eg Project Management Office, Project Competence Center) or the definition of PM career paths and incentive systems.


The methodology defines standards, instruments, methods, guidelines, and processes that should be used in projects. The methodology is usually determined individually for each organization. In many cases, the methodology used is documented in a project management manual.
In order for project management to be successful, leaders, project leaders, and staff must be prepared for and qualified for their role. Seminars, on-the-job training, or project coaching are widely used qualification tools.


IT-based structures must be created to ensure an efficient flow of information and communication and to support project planning and control throughout the project. The market has a large number of PM tools and comprehensive PM solutions that offer various functionalities.
The currently valid standard 69901: 2009 defines project management systems as a “system of guidelines, organizational structures, processes and methods for planning, monitoring and controlling projects”. By contrast, the now-defunct DIN 69905 standard still defined project management systems as an “organizationally delimitable whole, which through the interaction of its elements is able to prepare and handle projects.”

In addition, the organizational form of the sponsoring organization has an influence on the projects. The best-known forms of organization are:

  1. Line organization (function-related organization)
  2. Matrix organization (mixed view)
  3. Project-oriented organization

Project Phases

Project phases are temporal sections that are defined in the process model for a project. The phases form the framework in which individual activities are defined with their work content (what to do?) And their results. These activities are controlled and controlled in Project Management (Task Management subarea). Usually, the project phases end with defined milestones. Depending on the type of project, project product, sector, etc., phase models i. d. R. individually tailored to the task (eg for investment projects).

The structuring of the project activities in phases is in the pure form a procedure according to the waterfall model, but alternatively, it can also be created iteratively, eg. For example, to revise project results in certain situations.

An example of a phase model in general (with a list of PM tasks in it) is:

Project definition: The goal of the project is defined, opportunities and risks are analyzed and the main content is defined. Cost, extent, and time are roughly estimated; For large projects, this can be supported by a feasibility study. At the end of this phase is the formal project assignment.
Project Planning: In this phase, the team is organized and task schedules, schedules, schedules, capacity plans, communication plans, cost plans, quality plans, and risk management are defined. Milestones play an important role here. These are essential and central events during the course of the project, during which the current status of the project can be measured and verified and the project progress can be assessed.
Project Implementation and Control: Apart from the implementation itself, this phase includes project management control over project progress and response to project disruptive events. Insights into current or future deviations lead to planning changes and corrective actions.
Project completion: The results are presented and handed over in documented form. In a review, the project is evaluated retrospectively; The experiences made are often recorded in a Lessons Learned Report. The project manager is relieved by the client.
Possibly Project abort: The project is aborted without the project goals being reached.
Similarly, the PDCA cycle known as the Deming cycle defines a general 4-phase procedure that differs according to Plan, Do, Check, and Act (in the introduction). This general procedure can be applied ‘generically’ for entire projects or for individual project phases (phases).

A software development phase model could have a finer phase structure and look like the following, for example. The tasks of project management are not defined as a project phase, but are assumed to be a globally acceptable project role:

  • Analysis
  • Feasibility study
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Test
  • Piloting
  • Rollout among the users
  • Closing

In the current project management literature, the strict phase classification (“waterfall model”) is often called into question. For example, phase gradients may overlap or be circular. Methods like rapid prototyping or agile software development are trying to go other ways. In practice, hybrid approaches, ie hybrid forms from different project management methods, can also be found.

It is also criticized that a universally valid phase approach does not do justice to the diversity of projects. Nevertheless, the new DIN standard series 69900 is also based on this. A PM task is therefore to appropriately adapt the procedure for a specific project based on standard models; z. B. To summarize project phases and to exclude unnecessary project activities.

Join the Conversation


  1. Thank you very much for the deeply explained and comprehensive publication. I am really motivated in starting in project management career and I would be really thankful if you recommend me some best first steps. What specific training for beginners I need to attend? Should I also start learning some IT and Software? Thank you very much in advanced

  2. Hello everyone,
    I have always wondered if this definition is some really defined statement and who actually is the really bugets authority that created the definition of the project management? Isnt it a different understanding based on our own cases, practices and needs but not some standard. I hope you understand my question. Thanks

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