How exactly are projects and processes different? Which one is better? And what do project and process management involve?

There are advocates of both projects and processes as keys to business performance, and there’s been considerable emphasis on project management and process management in recent years.

To arrive at the answers, it’s important to understand the definition of projects and processes and the unique purposes that they serve within your business.

What is a project?

One way to look at it is that projects are things that you’ve never done before, whereas processes are things that we do repeatedly.

A project is about creating something new or implementing a change, whereas a process is intended to create value by repeatedly performing a task.

A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. And, a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.

In a project, objectives and plans can be changed by the stakeholders that give a project its mandate and resources, along with agreement from the project team.

What is a process?

Processes are established procedures for ongoing work, and they can only be changed with planning and investment. In fact, with any process that has a significant impact on a business, a project is ideally required to change that process.

As a bottom line, projects are intended to create change. In contrast, processes are designed to resist change because they establish a repeatable workflow that should always be followed.

  • Processes are how work gets standardized.
  • Projects are how process work gets improved.

Projects vs Processes

If you’re trying to better understand your internal operations, evaluate opportunities for improvement, or implement changes in any aspect of your business, it’s important to ask yourself what you’re dealing with in any given case: Is this a project or is it a process?

If you’re examining a part of your business that is an established, regular procedure, then it is likely a process.

If there is a very specific starting point and specific endpoint, then it is likely a project.

For example, your sales lead management may involve a process of receiving leads, reviewing, analyzing, and assigning them, and then performing the steps required for follow-up and communication with the prospective customer to qualify the lead. From there, your qualified leads may enter your actual sales process, with its own set of steps and actions that your sales team must perform to close the sale.

When you’re managing and monitoring a process, you’re engaging in process management. You may be defining the process, controlling it, managing it, measuring results, and reporting on outcomes. But you’re managing the process to ensure that it meets customer requirements profitably and not instituting changes to the process.

In contrast, if you’re looking to change a process to optimize and improve it, then this initiative generally constitutes a project.

Creating these changes will require a project with sponsorship, resources, a clear plan, and a systematic approach to implementation and management.  This approach involves project management, which is the application of knowledge and resources to develop a project scope and plan that will carry out the required actions and meet or exceed stakeholder requirements.

The Process of Project Management

Project management is a well-established methodology for managing and executing changes within an organization. Interestingly, project management itself is a defined, repeatable process. It is a clear methodology and process for managing and executing changes within an organization.

Ultimately, all work involves a process, and project management is no different. Proper project management proceeds according to well-defined principles and procedures for managing organizational changes and new initiatives to a successful conclusion. It is simply a very specific and carefully designed process that is designed to be repeated and executed whenever your business is making a major change and doing something new for the first time.

The process of implementing those changes is called project management, and each change should be managed as a project.

What is a Process Improvement Project?

If you are undertaking a project to improve a process, it can be a “Process Improvement Project”.   If you make process improvement a regular process in your business, you will likely want to set standards for that process just like any other process. Companies that are serious about Process Improvement, and want to make it part of their culture, will take the time to setup processes for regularly reviewing and improving processes. This often means creating a standard workflow or process improvement template to follow. KPI Fire refers to these as Workflows. The app includes some templates for the most popular process improvement templates you can use such as DMAIC, PDCA, KAIZEN, 8Wastes, and 8D Problem Solving.

Project vs Process: Both Are Equally Important

There is no difference in importance between a project and a process. Each plays an important role in achieving important objectives within a business, and you should make sure to use both as appropriate.

Processes are the ongoing and repeated procedures that help achieve your business goals, while projects are the ways to alter processes, launch new products, or otherwise make changes in your organization that advance your objectives in new ways.