What is the difference between project and process?

process versus project

A project is defined by a fixed time, scope, and resources. When implementing a project, the goal is to execute change, usually drastic, and to incorporate that change into the day-to-day processes of the company.

A process is defined by cycles. Similar to a project, a process also has a beginning, middle, and end; however, this cycle repeats itself over an average period of time.

Both projects and process are important for running and improving a business. However, depending on the end result trying to be achieved, one may be more suited than the other.

For example, suppose a company wants to implement a new software cross-functionally that will be more secure and boost overall productivity. The goal is a 100% adoption rate in less than four months. In this scenario, a project is necessary–one that will incorporate many department leaders and follow the designing, implementation, and adoption phases of the new software.

In another scenario, a sales manager notes that sales reps are taking days to reach out to new leads in their pipeline. However, up to this point the manager has little data to determine if this is caused by understaffing, or by a lack of a better approach to clearing out the pipeline. In this case, improving the process by which sales reps clear out their pipeline and tracking their steps would have better results than implementing a project.

The difference between project and process management

One of the most common mistake people make when it comes to project and process management is trying to use a tool that was specifically designed for project management to manage processes. Besides having intrinsically different time spans, projects and processes are overseen differently, making most tools incompatible for managing both.

Projects are overseen by a principal authority, usually referred to as a Project Manager who leads the project towards its goal.

Whereas, processes are run by all people involved in the ongoing operations of that workflow. In other words, they are day-to-day actions that are formalized with the goal of improving overall efficiency and productivity.

How to improve project management

Although most project management tools aren’t compatible for process management, projects are run better when there is an underlying process to their execution.

Here are some agile process practices that will quickly improve your project management:

1. Standardize planning

Even though every project is unique, the planning process shouldn’t have to be. The more regularized the planning process is, the less likely important factors will go without consideration.

2. Practice routine expense and time logging

Not only will routine expense and time logging help keep track of finances, but it will also help you find bottlenecks in performance.

3. Set-up automated billing

The more predictable tasks such as billing, can be automated and systematically tracked, the more you can focus on dynamic aspects of the project.

4. Consolidate and standardize reporting

Frequent and through reports are key to preventing scope creep and delivering within the budget.

5. Conduct routine meetings that stay on topic

Daily stand-ups are an agile management practice. Routine meetings help all teams members stay on track, keep up to date with project changes, and hold themselves more accountable for their deliverables.

Start implementing these practices using a project management process template.

How to improve process management

If your company currently uses a business process management (BPM) software, it is much easier to use data to find bottlenecks and determine areas for improvement. However, if your company is new to BPM, here are a few initial steps to improving your business processes:

1. Identify key business processes

Start your process management by pinpointing key processes that keep the business, or your department, running effectively.

2. Map out the key processes

Second to implementing a process management software, a process map is a good tool for getting a bird’s eye view of your processes.

3. Determine how the processes can be improved

With you bird’s eye view, it may be easier to find bottlenecks, opportunities for streamlining work or approvals, and pinpointing steps that can be automated.

Why process management is essential to running a successful business

Toyota is a perfect example of how strong business have strong processes. The company developed the Toyota Production System which incorporates lean manufacturing concepts and is now considered a benchmark for process execution quality.

Processes are meant to be constantly and gradually improved. Regardless of which methodology used to guide your process management, the effects of continuously making agile improvements eliminates unnecessary steps, saves time, identifies bottlenecks, and more.

An agile process management software, such as Pipefy, allows you to build execution standards that are flexible enough to adapt to a project, but also strict enough to ensure the execution quality of a process.

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Written by Isabelle Salemme, Product content manager at Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to write informative pieces teaching users to make the best of Pipefy. Besides being responsible for all product-related content, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover and a professional photographer.