characteristics of a project

What are the Characteristics of a Project?

March 23, 2016 by

So how do you know that you’ve got a project on your hands? What makes a body of work a project? If you’ve found yourself asking these questions recently, then this post is for you.


Click here to start managing projects on SharePoint with a free template


 Six Characteristics of a Project

  1. A project is typically for a customer.
  2. The project is temporary in nature. It typically has a defined start and a defined end-point.
  3. The project will have a unique set of requirements that need to be delivered within the boundaries of this project.
  4. A project can typically be more of a once-off endeavor, rather than something that’s happening all the time in a repeated fashion.
  5. A project is not ‘business as usual’, which is more akin to a process.
  6. A project can very often be cross-functional, or indeed cross-organization.


Projects and Conflicting Constraints

You will also find that your typical project is impacted by conflicting constraints. Here are four typical constraints to watch out for:

  1. Scope – defines the needs that the customer has, or the requirements expressed and implied.
  2. Time – a project is usually required by a customer by an agreed date.
  3. Quality – to what standard is the project expected to deliver?
  4. Resources –  the amount of money, budget, or resources that are available to be expended on the project.


It’s obviously not possible to fix and agree on all four of these constraints as the projects starts, which is why they’re called conflicting constraints. Let’s take a simple example to explain: it wouldn’t be possible for you to deliver forty new features or requirements in your project in one year of time to perfect quality with one person, if the last time you did it, it took four years.

It’s important to listen to your customer and ask enough questions, so you understand which of these constraints are really critical, and therefore fixed.

Is it that all the requirements have to be delivered? Or is it that something significant is needed by the end of the year, even if all the requirements are not delivered? Or is it that you need to do as much as you can with four people and a hundred thousand dollars?

This is often called the time–quality–cost triangle. Time, quality, and cost are the sides of the triangle and you elongate or shorten each of the sides until they form a triangle. So you may be fixing one of the constraints and adjusting the other two to match.


triple constraints


If I use an example close to home, at BrightWork we release a new product to our customers about twice a year, so we endeavor to fix the time at about six months.

The quality and the ease of use has to meet a very high standard, it’s not appropriate or right to ship poor quality.

So in the BrightWork case, the time and the quality are fixed and therefore the third constraint, which is the scope of functionality we deliver, is the one that varies. We try to fit in as much capability as we can in each release, but it has to be done in a certain amount of time and with a very high degree of quality.

In our case, time and quality are fixed and scope is variable.


Get Started with the Free SharePoint Project Management Template from BrightWork

Now that you understand the characteristics and constraints facing a typical project, it’s time to think about how you will actually manage the work!  If a project management solution is already used within your organization, start there. If not, check to see if Microsft SharePoint, a collaborative tool, is available.

If so, why not download and use the free SharePoint Project Management Template from BrightWork, to kickstart your project management journey? The template is currently being used by over 40,000 organizations worldwide to successfully manage projects with SharePoint and was recently updated with exciting new features.

The template will help you:

  • Easily plan your project with a pre-configured project management template.
  • Get instant visibility into the status of your project with KPIs and visual reporting dashboards.
  • Collaborate more effectively with your team in a centralized project site in SharePoint.


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Eamonn McGuinness
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