A project may be defined as a one-shot, time-limited, goal-directed, major undertaking, requiring the commitment of varied skills and resources. A project has also been described as "a combination of human and nonhuman resources pulled together in a temporary organization to achieve a specified purpose." A project has a single set of objectives, and when these objectives are reached, the project is completed. Therefore, a project has a finite and well-defined life span. In addition, management must have a very clear idea as to what these objectives are so that there can be no question as to when the project is completed.
The words project and program may be considered to be synonymous. However, the two words have had different acceptance depending on the industry involved. The Department of Defense and their aerospace and electronics customers prefer to use program management. Construction, public works, and product industries prefer the term project management. There is a growing acceptance of the differentiation of a "project" from a "program" in that a program is usually much larger in scope, is activity oriented, and is not necessarily time limited. A program, however, may encompass a number of projects.
Project success depends on selecting the right person as a project manager. Management means getting things done through the active support of other people. It would be difficult to find a better statement which more accurately describes the project manager's job. Unlike the functional manager who has power through position in the hierarchy and direct authority over people, the project manager usually has only position power which usually comes from endorsement of the role by top management. However, formal announcements and directives bestowing this authority on the project manager seldom guarantee results. Direct personal signals from the top executives of the company are necessary to convey the message to others in the functional organization. Although this authority is necessary to do the job and make things happen, the better project managers use another source of power -- their own leadership ability and charisma -- to command attention and gain respect.
The project manager of a major project is chosen by top management, and is thus their direct and very real representative. Therefore, the project manager must relate unequivocally with corporate goals. It has been pointed out that every project has a "customer." This statement is obvious if we are dealing with a contractual project, but not so obvious when dealing with a new commercial product. It is easy to forget that the public is the ultimate customer for most projects. Therefore, the project manager must also strongly relate with the customer's goals. Having ultimate responsibility for success or failure, the project manager must provide project direction; planning; control of all costs, schedules, and resources; and customer satisfaction.