Project Management Concepts – Why Do We Do Projects?

I’ve been giving some thought recently as to what lies behind the work we do as project managers. Too often we get caught up in the tools and techniques, the how of what we do, without looking at the concepts and ideas behind it, the why of what we do.

Let’s go back to the very basics. Why do we do projects? What are they for?

I think this one is simple, but far too often forgotten: The primary aim of every project is to benefit the business.

To begin with, let’s look at the traditional view of business as usual. A company has a particular process it goes through to create its product, to produce as many of it as the company can.

One of the things we can say about this situation is that it is steady-state – the company can continue going through the same process to build ever more of its product. But, of course, the environment that the business operates in is going to change. And that means the company needs to adapt.

This is where projects come in. A project is about change. An individual project in this case could be about improving manufacturing methods, developing a new product to make, finding new markets, and so on. While the details of the project may change, all of them are change, about bringing change into the business.

But why would we want to do this? Why bring change into the business? Well, as I have already suggested, a business cannot stay the same while the environment it is in changes. New competitors may arise, economic conditions may alter, suppliers may go out of business.

A company that doesn’t react to these changing conditions, that doesn’t bring change into itself, will fall behind. It will suffer because other companies are reacting to the changing environment. These companies will take their market share, and eventually drive the first company out of business.

This means that we need to find a way to help the business. We need to deliver a project that benefits the business.

Now, of course, that benefit can make different forms. In general, the output of the project will directly either make, or save, the company some money. For example, the project may develop a new product to be sold, or improve manufacturing processes to reduce costs.

But this is only a generalisation – it may be the project itself only touches on the financial side indirectly. For example, a project may improve brand awareness in the marketplace. While this improved awareness will lead to increased sales, the project itself doesn’t deliver them.

So that’s why we do projects – we bring change into the business, and by doing that, or at least doing it successfully, we benefit the business. And that is one of my project management concepts: The primary aim of every project is to benefit the business.