The point I knew I wanted to be in technology project management in college. I had attended a class in organization and environment, and they told us about the Polaris Missile Program. A process was developed by the US Navy, Program Evaluation and Review Technique, that enabled the program to manage complexity and deliver a project on time and budget. Wow! Of course, the Navy immediately applied their PERT process to the next program with, shall we say, sub-optimal results. That was interesting to me. There was more to the magic of getting things to turn out right.
The Project Management Institute (PMI®) has spent a lot of time coming up with project theory, learning materials and tools for project management. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) is the result. By definition, what is a project? Well, it’s a time bound effort with a unique end result. That would make “designing a car” (a car design and relating tooling being the unique product, that process having a beginning and end) a project, but “assembling a car” (putting parts together in a factory resulting a daily production run) is operational work.
PMI has defined the framework as “Process Groups” and “Knowledge Areas”. Process groups is what you go through over the lifetime of the project, which is to say Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. Knowledge areas are project management processes required to ensure various areas of the project are coordinated, and they are Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, HR, Communication, Risk, Procurement and Stakeholder (new in the past couple of years!) management. These can be arranged in a grid, with process groups as columns and knowledge areas on rows. When I refer to project management, that’s the overall framework. We’ve come a long way from the simple view of a Scope/Time/Cost triangle, or as my general contractor is fond of saying, “You can have it good, fast or cheap — pick two!”
Generally, I write, edit, add links and then double-check facts with searches (if I feel I need to). Anyway, after publishing this, I searched for some project management links and decided that PMI wrote a better short article about what is project management. If you search the internet, avoid the Wiki topic — particularly if you think you might someday take the PMP® exam. If you want an interesting site of articles, I’ll suggest projectmanagement.com, which is sponsored by PMI, but there’s a lot of possibly overwhelming detail there. If you want to go all sorcerer’s apprentice, in my opinion your best bet is the RMC book PMP® Exam Prep. I suggest buying the most recent edition, but if you’re just using it for random study, a used older edition is fine. Just realize that the knowledge areas are evolving over time.