Characteristics Of Projects – Attempt At Answer

Paul Naybour

List 5 characteristics or projects and describe how each is different from business-as-usual activities.

Projects are described as unique, transient endeavours undertaken to achieve a desired outcome. They differ from business-as-usual activities in the following ways:

1.       Unique nature

A project is initiated by a sponsor in response to finding a resolution for a business need on behalf of the organisations’ stakeholders, so as to bring about a beneficial change for all. By this very definition, this makes them unique, one-off endeavours, which are not repeated once the end products or services are delivered and the benefits for the organisation and key stakeholders are realised. Business-as-usual activities, on the other hand, do need to be repeated on a regular basis in order to ensure a continuous production workflow and to satisfy the demand from the consumers. Part of the unique quality of projects means that they evolve from an individual business case as observed by the project board and will lead to an individually tailored scope being set out which forms the basis upon which the project management plan can be composed. Business as usual operations will follow a set of predefined processes in order to manufacture the end product on a continual basis.

2.       Life-cycle structure

Projects are structured according to a finite project life cycle which has a start and finish and point and is governed by the timeline laid down by the sponsor. The project will pass through a series of distinct phases – concept, definition, implementation (which can also be broken down into design and build phases) and handover and close-out. These phases help the PM to monitor the project’s progress and success along the way. In comparison, business as usual activities run to a production cycle, made up primarily of build, testing and delivery, since the first three phases of concept, definition and implementation will has been already established when the initial project was undertaken.

3.       Transient nature

The PM will need to draw up a schedule of time-based work items to which the project will run. This may include a certain degree of float to build in some flexibility should activities overrun, but there will be a clear start and target end delivery date. Business as usual operations have their own targets, which may include delivery of a certain amount of units being produced on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. These may vary according to demand at any one given point in time, whereas project management seeks to produce a base-lined schedule, which is relatively fixed throughout the life of the project.

4.       Resource requirements

The resources of staff, equipment, services etc. needed to run a project will be employed only for its duration. This means that project members will be hired and redeployed when their services are no longer required. This transient nature of a project’s resources means that the team will consist of members with highly specialised skills to achieve the successful completion of the project. And they will tend to command higher wages because of this. The kind of staff needed to work on a production line in business as usual operations will not only be employed on much longer contracts but also normally tend to receive a more modest wage, since their requirements are to produce the same products on an on-going regular basis.

5.       Risk

As projects are brand new endeavours, they inherently come with associated risks. The PM has the responsibility of drawing up risk management plan to identify, analyse, process and manage the risks so that the project can run to schedule and budget and in doing so, reduce the risk to the sponsoring organisation and its stakeholders. The risk process runs throughout the whole project life cycle and the PM must revisit the risk plan at every stage to ensure the risk to the project is minimised throughout, right until the final handover and closeout stage. As business as usual activities are not new after the initial go-live period, their own associated risks are identified and assessed just once at the start of production to secure a stable platform with reduced risks to the processes and resources, on a daily basis.


1 thought on “Characteristics Of Projects – Attempt At Answer”

  1. Hi

    A very good answer, but a bit long to write in 15 minutes….

    I recommend three sentences for each paragraph.

    1) What you are stating as the different
    2) Why it is relevant
    3) An example to demonstrate the issues.

    1. Unique nature

    Projects are unique and one-off activities because they are about business change whereas business-as-usual activities, are repeated on a regular basis. (The what). This distinction is important because project have a different risk profile and body of knowledge when compared to operations, although both are equally important. (Why) For example exploration for oil is a project, whereas on-going production is operations. (example)

    This for each section will give you a good mark, you can complete the exam in 90 minutes and still pass.

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