Project management is a practice that is applicable to any industry. The information on this site is particularly relevant to information technology (IT), but it can be applied to any business at Duke or beyond.

What is a project?

Most of us have an idea of what a project is – perhaps we define it as activities we perform to achieve a particular goal. In the project management profession, the definition is more precise. According to the Project Management Institute, the worldwide professional organization for project managers, a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”*

Why do project management?

One of the primary reasons to apply project management practices is to reduce risk and increase the likelihood of project success. Success can be measured in saved cost or time, by meeting specific project goals, or even by deciding not to pursue a project. Simply put, project management techniques can help you avoid surprises during your project.

When you include everyone that has a stake in the project, discuss and document what you’re setting out to do, and develop a plan for how to get there, everyone involved is more likely to have similar expectations and a vision of what “project success” will look like. Keeping everyone informed along the way is a major contributor to that success.

Project phases

Projects are divided into major “process areas” or phases: initiation/discovery, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closing. Each phase involves key activities and specific documentation, which helps communicate activities and status.

Project management and service management

Project management and service management processes are linked to one another. Read more about how project management and service management are related at OIT.

Types of projects

In the IT world, we tend to focus efforts on the following types of projects:

  • Application/Web development
  • Infrastructure upgrade/redesign
  • Discovery/innovation
  • Business process redesign

Although the outcomes vary widely, the projects can be approached in a similar way, using simple project management tools and principles.

Key terms

The project management industry is full of terms and concepts that may be new to you. Learn more from the glossary.


*Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), 4th ed., 2008.