The definition of project

Table of Contents

In this article, we will research about the definition of project and analyze its characteristics. In daily life, we often encounter the term “Project” in many media such as television, radio, newspapers, Internet, etc. Beside that, most of us have participated in at least one project, it could be a competition at school, a local activity or a company activity, etc.

Projects appear everywhere and of all sizes, from one-person projects, such as learning a new skill, to projects involving thousands of people, such as the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the Great Wall of China, etc. And the life cycle of each project can last from a few days to many years.

Despite being so familiar, maybe not many people really understand what the project is. Through this article, I hope that we will have the answer for this question.

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The definition of project

According to PMI (Project Management Institute), the definition of project is

A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.


From here, we can see that there are two components that make up a project, “temporary effort” and “unique product, service or result”. So what do they mean? Let’s go deeper to get a better understand about these two components.

Temporary endeavor

Each project is a temporary endeavor, where:

  • Endeavor” is an attempt to do something, especially something new or difficult. Completing a project always contains many difficulties and challenges.
  • Temporary” means that a project must have a specific start and end point. “Temporary” hereby does not mean that the project must be implemented in a short period of time.

A project ends when one of the following become true:

  • The project objectives have been achieved.
  • The project objectives will or may not be achievable.
  • The project has no available budget, or budget is exhausted.
  • The project is no longer needed (e.g. the client no longer wants to complete the project, or there is some change in strategy or priority that closes the project, or the management organization directs to terminate the project).
  • Physical resources for the project (people, material) are no longer available.
  • The project was canceled due to legal reasons.

Projects are temporary, but their deliverables can last beyond the life of the project itself.

Unique product, service or result

The objective of a project is to create a unique product, service, or result. Hereby, “unique” means that the product, service, or outcome must be the only one of its kind in project. For example, the operation of a production line is not considered a project, since they produce the same products throughout the operation.

The objective of the project is accomplished by producing deliverables. A deliverable is defined as any unique and verifiable product, result, or capability. Deliverables can be tangible or intangible.

The project may generate one or more of the following deliverables:

  • A single product or an ingredient in another product.
  • An upgrade or fix for another product.
  • A unique service or ability to perform a service.
  • A unique combination of 1 or more products, services, or results.

Repetitive components may be present in some project deliverables and activities. This iteration does not change the fundamental and unique characteristics of each project.

Some examples of project

From the definition above, let’s take a look at the daily activities and evaluate whether they can be considered as a project or not?

Example 1: Learning a new skill

I want to learn programming for 6 months, can this be considered a project?

  • Learning to code has a certain deadline, a specific start and end point.
  • The result of this learning progress is that I can create computer programs (1 capability), and is verifiable. This capability is unique, i.e. learning another skill won’t give me this skill.
    => Therefore, learning programming skills in 6 months is considered a project.

Example 2: Doing exercise

I do exercise every day, so doing exercise can be considered a project?

  • Doing exercise does not have a specific start and end point.
  • Doing exercise does not produce a unique and verifiable results.
    => Therefore, doing exercise is not considered a project.

Example 3: Making reports

At current work, I need to make daily, weekly and monthly work reports. So can making report be considered a project?

  • Making report does not have a specific start and end point.
  • The results of this (reports) are not unique.
    => Therefore, making report is not considered a project.


We have researched about the concept and components of a project. From now, each of us will be able to answer the question “What is a project”. We end the article here and will continue to dig deeper into the knowledge related to the project in the next articles.

Thank you for your interest of this article.

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Ho Nhat Thanh

Founder of JustPassion website. Having more than 8 years of experiences in Software development and project management. A book-lover, a blogger and a learning enthusiast.

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