Operations management and Project management are easily confused terms. They share some characteristics and some differences as well.
Operations management is responsible for overseeing, directing, and controlling business operations. Production operations, manufacturing operations, accounting operations, software support, and maintenance are examples of operations management.
It makes sure that the businesses operations are resourceful, minimum resources are used, and customers’ expectation and requirements are met. Operations deliver products, achieve quality, and create services.
A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to produce a unique product, service, or result. It has a defined start and end point and works according to a specific goal and objective. Projects are temporary, and they help to meet goals of the organization when aligned with the organization’s strategy.
Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.
During a project’s lifecycle, it goes through many phases. At some of these phases, projects could intersect with operations. Some of those are:
At the phase of developing a new product, expanding outputs, or upgrading a product
At the product development process or while improving operations
Until the end of the product lifecycle
At closeout phase
To implement the delivered work, information and knowledge are exchanged between project and operations during each phase. Also, according to the book Practical Project Management for Agile Nonprofits by Karen R. J. White, there are four areas for which operations and project managers both are responsible. These areas include:
The areas for which operations and project managers both are responsible for (budget, schedule, staff management, and skills development) are same, but their responsibilities are different. A descriptive analysis of the responsibilities of operations and project managers in all the four areas is given below:
An operation manager is responsible for the budget of a whole department and the cost associated with it. It includes salaries, costs of managing and maintaining their workplace, etc.
A project manager is just responsible for the budget of the project that he is currently working on. It includes revenue that is generated during the tenure of the project.
The operations manager has day-to-day management responsibilities, and many of those tasks will take place in business as usual schedule.
The project manager is only responsible for making sure that the project he is managing is on time. It includes responsibilities like scheming a delivery date, planning milestones and then tracking development. In short, he ensures that all the tasks stay on track.
The responsibility of an operations manager is wider in terms of managing staff. His responsibilities include recruiting people into the department, onboarding new staff, and allotting people to projects according to their qualities and characteristics. They are also responsible for approving leave applications, dealing with absence due to sickness, or personal problems and all the other HR duties. They oversee projects but are also liable to look after the performance on everything that is not related to projects.
The project manager is not responsible for any HR related issue like hiring or firing. He is just accountable for overseeing the performance of his teammates on the project work that he is managing. But he cannot take any action if any team member is performing poorly. All he can do is report the situation to the team member’s manager. Then it will be the responsibility of the operational manager of that team member to look at the performance issue.
The operations manager is responsible for improving skills and career of his department. It could be through training, coaching, and mentoring the staff.
Project managers don’t necessarily have line management responsibility for their team members. They just need to lend some extra help or information if required.
A project manager and an operations manager may intersect at various areas of duties, but their roles remain different. An operations manager works in a wider context and thus, takes the responsibilities of management and related fields away from project manager so that he can solely focus on the current project.
However, both the roles could be said to be complementary to each other. A project manager cannot achieve success in the project without the input of the operations manager as the latter is responsible for allocation of resources and the operations manager relies on project managers for the quality of individual projects.
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