In contemporary business or science project is a collaborative enterprise, involving research or design, that is carefully planned to achieve a determined aim.

Project are commonly defined as a set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period of time, with a set cost, and to predetermined quality standards.

A project that focuses on outcomes and benefits realisation as opposed to solely outputs is usually called a programme.

Origin of the Word “Project”

The word project orginated in 1350-1400 from the latin word prōjectum from the Latin verb proicere to throw forward, “before an action” equivalent to pro-, which denotes precedence, something that comes before something else in time (paralleling the Greek πρό) and iacere, “to do”.

The word “project” therefore originally was intended to mean “before an action”.

When English speaking people adopted the word, it referred to a plan of something, not to the act of  carrying this plan out.

Specific uses

School and University

At school, educational institutes or universities, a project is a meticulously planned piece of work to obtain information about something usually in the form of a research assignment given to students which requires a more effort and work than a normal essay assignment.

It requires students to undertake fact-finding and analysis using various sources. The written report that comes from the project is usually in the form of a dissertation, which would normally contain sections on the project’s inception, analysis, findings and conclusions.

Project Management

In project management a project is…

  • A temporary endeavor (it has a clear closure date)
  • Designed to create a specific product, service or result.
  • Budgeted separately from other business activities
  • Clearly scoped (what are we doing and what are we not doing?)
  • Controlled throughout
  • Has a beginning and end
  • Planned and broken down into stages
  • Run with a team structure with clear roles and responsibilities:
    • Project Director
    • Gatekeeper
    • Single Point of Accountability
    • Project Manager
    • Project Team

In project management a project is not…

  • A programme of works (a series of loosely-connected pieces of work)
  • Business as usual
  • Running indefinitely

Computer Software

In computer software a project can consist of programs, configuration definitions and related data.