Projects: Creating Products, Services, and Results

People use the term "project" loosely. Someone may say, "I need to finish my filing project today." But what is a project and what's the difference between creating products, services, and results?

products, services, and results

What is a Project?

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

Projects are Temporary

Projects are temporary. Projects have a beginning and an end. In contrast, teams perform operational tasks on a daily basis. Team members scan documents, handle customer calls, and pay invoices. 

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Projects are Unique

Another important attribute of projects is they produce something that is unique. The output may be a unique:

  • Product
  • Service
  • Result

Now, let's define these terms.

"Project. A temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result. —PMBOK

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What is a Product?

The PMBOK defines a product as, "an artifact that is produced, is quantifiable, and can be either an end item in itself or a component item." Here are some examples:

  • Software
  • Building
  • Manufacturing Process
  • Bridge
building project

Building Project

Some projects involve modifying something that already exists. For example, a project team may modify an existing accounts receivable software package. Or a project team may modify or add to an existing building.

The What, Why, and How of Projects

What is a Service?

service is intangible. Services include items such as customer service, claims service, utility service, audits, and employee assistance programs, to name a few. How can project management be used to develop and implement a service?

Imagine a company that wants to develop and implement a centralized customer service center (CSC). The tasks for this project might include:

customer service person

Customer Service Representative

  • Deciding on a location.
  • Defining requirements for cubicles, phones, and computers.
  • Selecting, purchasing, and installing the new call management software.
  • Defining new business processes for taking calls, escalating issues, and managing call volume.
  • Training CSC team on customer service.
  • Communicating new CSC phone number to customers.

What is a Result?

A result may be an outcome or document. A manager may be concerned with employee turnover and wish to document all the business processes. Trainers could use the business process document for training new employees, resulting in a more uniform experience for customers.

Your Turn

If your company does not use project management, develop an implementation plan. Here are some beginner tips:

  • Start simple. Apply project management to a few small to medium sized projects.
  • Train the team members who will serve on the selected projects.
  • Coach the team members throughout the project.
  • Understand there is a learning curve. You may find your initial efforts require more time.
  • Conduct post reviews after each project in order to discover what went well, what did not go well, and what you would do differently.
  • As you gain traction, apply project management to larger, more complex projects.

Avoid making Rookie Mistakes in Planning Your Projects

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