The reasons for undertaking projects

undertaking projects

For course work at university there is the requirement that students submit a project and they often fail to consider the reasons for undertaking projects.  Students often grapple with the question of what project to do.  Invariably they ask if they could do a particular project and I tell them do not start with the project. They are to start with a problem, need, opportunity or legal requirement.


Projects are done to solve a problem, satisfy a need, comply with a legal requirement or capitalize on/exploit an opportunity.  These are often the business reasons for undertaking projects and are outlined in the business objectives.   In each case an analysis has to be done:

Re problems– there is the need to differentiate between symptoms of the problem and causes of the problem.  It is only when the causes are found, that there can be a resolution of the problem.  The reasons for undertaking projects therefore have to do with addressing the causes of the problem.

Re needs – In an environment of scarcity, especially of finances, there is the need to differentiate between needs and wants and so attack critical issues.   For example, a person wanting to obtain family housing may not qualify for a mortgage but the need for housing can still be filled by way of rental.  However, if the need was really for acquisition of capital assets, then only purchase of the house will suffice.

Re opportunities:  Properly define the opportunity and clinically examine whether you or your organization are truly in a position to successfully exploit the opportunity.

Re Legal requirement-.  In this case there is no consideration of whether the project should be done or not.  It has to be done.  You have to determine what the legislation requires you to do and seek to do it in the most cost effective and efficient way.

It is important to be aware of the above so that you can keep your eyes on the objective as achievement of it will be how the success of the project will be judged

Some reasons for initiating projects include- market demand, business needs, customer request, technology advances, legal requirements, social needs


1.      Determine the objective the project will satisfy – be it to resolve a problem, exploit an opportunity, satisfy a need     or meet a legal requirement.

2.      List options to achieve the objective i.e., satisfy the need/resolve the problem/exploit the opportunity/ satisfy the legal requirement – here project stakeholders are very important.  Determine the Stakeholders and ensure involvement of key stakeholders in this analysis phase.  Stakeholders are persons or organizations involved in or affected by a project or its outcome.

3.      Ensure alignment of the options with the organization’s strategy

4.      Utilizing project selection methods, choose the most appropriate one-the project

Remember that in order to determine project success there is the need to review the reasons for undertaking the projects and see if they were satisfied.  It is not just that the deliverables of the project were achieved but was the objective for which the project was done realized. My blog post entitled the project was successfully implemented but is a failure showed that the deliverables can be achieved, but the objective that caused the project to be done was not.

Update to 2022


To need for organizational change can come from any of the above mentioned reasons for undertaking projects. 

APM Association for Project Management defined Change management as the overarching approach taken in an organisation to move from the current to a future desirable state using a coordinated and structured approach in collaboration with stakeholders.

It further defines Organizational change as being introduced into corporate settings through projects, programmes and portfolios in order to deliver business value.  However, it noted that this is only the beginning of the process of embedding change and making it the new normal state for the organisation.

You may ask why and how are projects used in effecting organizational change.  To understand it you need an appreciation of what is WORK.  Work comprises projects and operations.  Projects bring about change whereas operations sustain the business.  For example, if I wanted to make a bread that fat persons can eat and lose weight, this has not been done before.  I need to pull a team together do research, product formulation, market testing, packaging, promotion and everything possible to launch this product.  When everything is finished and the product is ready for distribution, I can turn it over to operations and every day they will bake this bread which will be packaged and distributed.  Projects end in operations.

If I wanted to change an organization, this will be done through a mix of projects, programme and portfolios with a focus also on operations.  A programme is a collection of projects that are managed as a group to achieve efficiencies of scale.  A portfolio refers to a grouping of projects, and programs, but can also include other project-related activities and responsibilities including operations.  The intent of a portfolio is to have a mix capable of achieving the strategic objective of the organization.

In this ever-changing world, especially since Covid-19, organizations need to develop their change management capabilities to remain relevant and projects are a main Vehicle they will have to use to effect changes.

TA Technology Advice in an article entitled Use Project Management for Smooth Organizational Change  discussed steps that take place for this smooth transition at the 3 levels – leadership level, implementation level, and operational level.  In discussing the change at the leadership level, it indicated that “to successfully transition a system at the leadership level, the company must organize the leadership for this project.

check out the related blogs:

starting a business from business idea to business plan

starting a business the need to prepare a project management plan

 what can be done when your dreams turn to ashes before your eyes

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