In business management, there are often two terms that, although visibly different, are often confused or misunderstood. These concepts are process and project. Projects are sets of tasks that are carried out only once to achieve the objectives, while processes are sets of stages that are repeated periodically to obtain the same result.
Often, the only way for many companies to get additional resources is through projects. Over time, this budget is used in routine and repetitive work, so they continue to manage the budget designed for the project in the processes. Therefore, the first basic rule to keep in mind in the distinction between project and process is that the project has a beginning and an end, while the process repeats itself over and over again like a cycle.
What is a project?
A project is a set of tasks that must be completed to achieve a goal. It represents an effort to achieve something that cannot be done on a regular basis in current daily tasks. Projects have a defined scope and deadline. An example of a project is the creation of a website.
The projects present some relevant advantages, such as:
- They have a previously defined budget, without unexpected costs.
- They streamline teamwork.
- The results are expected, so the uncertainty is reduced.
- They have an end date, which makes it easy to execute each stage.
What is a process?
A process is a previously established procedure that is divided into phases and repeated to meet certain objectives. Processes have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and are present in various business operations that are carried out regularly. Examples of a process are hiring staff for a particular area, writing articles for the website already created, and developing a business proposal for a customer.
Processes offer the following advantages to the business sector:
- Greater control of results.
- Better perspective and visibility of employees.
- Identification of bottlenecks.
- Clearly defined and structured workflows.
- Data-driven actions.
Differences between process and project.
There are several specific differences between a project and a process. The different management of time in each one is one of them, but there are also others no less important that could clarify the difference between the two.
1. An innovation or improvement is a project, while routine work operations involve processes.
A project is a temporary endeavor to produce a unique good, deliverable, or service. To carry out the project, a team trained in the skills and competencies required to carry it out is brought together. When the project is finished, the team generally disintegrates and each member returns to their corresponding area. In case the team continues to work, the project, by becoming iterative, would cease to be a project and become a process.
Instead, a process is a more ongoing effort that results in a repeatable product or deliverable, although it may require some changes from time to time. For each process carried out, the same product is obtained. As the process is permanent, the people who carry it out execute the same set of tasks each time.
2. Projects require project management, while processes require process management.
Using project management to manage processes is the wrong decision because every company should already have an annual budget for processes, as it allows more real-time visibility, perhaps, than projects. To avoid making mistakes that confuse these two terms, project management is devoted to managing projects, while process management, also known as BPM, is aimed at managing processes.
Often, some projects derive from processes, since they present a certain set of activities or tasks that deserve adaptation in a cycle. The more projects adapt to processes, the less risk, and the more efficiency will be achieved in the periodic results.
Relationship between a project and a process
Both a project and a process are interrelated sets of activities that transform inputs into products or services. In this set of activities, projects include different activities, never before carried out by the company. Processes are another set of interrelated and dependent activities that are repeated over time.
Both assets must be properly managed to achieve results in line with expectations while taking into account the differences between one and the other. Therefore, when thinking about a project, a large budget will be needed to invest only once, on the other hand, in daily processes the budget is always the same or similar and is lower in proportion to what is invested in a project.
Although they look quite similar, projects and processes are not the same. Essentially, the difference between a project and a process is that the project is a set of interrelated activities that are carried out only once, that uses resources aimed at obtaining an improvement or innovation result. A process is a set of interrelated activities that are performed repeatedly to achieve a predictable result. Both projects and processes are necessary to achieve the objectives of a company, only that projects are oriented to growth, while processes provide stability and efficiency.