Operations Management and Project Management are easily confused terms. They share some characteristics and some differences. But, it is considered important to understand the differences between the two for optimum results. This article covers the iconic project management vs operations management debate and explains how best the difference between operations and Project Management can be used to our advantage.
What is Operations Management?
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 business’s operations are resourceful, minimum resources are used, and customers’ expectations and requirements are met. Operations deliver products, achieve quality, and create services.
What is Project Management?
A project is a temporary endeavor that produces a unique product, service, or result. It has a defined start and endpoint and works according to a specific goal and objective. Projects are temporary, and they help to meet the goals of the organization when aligned with the organization’s strategy. With all the requirements and objectives, the project teams follow a project life cycle and deliver the project’s deliverables in a specified time.
Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.
The Connection between Operations Management and Project Management
During a project life cycle, it goes through phases like initiation, planning, execution, control & monitoring, closure, etc. 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 life cycle
- At closeout phase
To implement the delivered work, information and knowledge are exchanged between the 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:
- Staff Management
- Skills Development
Project Management vs Operations Management
The areas for which operations and project managers both are responsible (budget, schedule, staff management, and skills development) are the same, but their responsibilities are different. A descriptive analysis of the responsibilities of operations and project managers in all four areas are as follows:
- 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 a 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 the 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, on-boarding new staff, and allotting people to projects according to their qualities and characteristics. They are also responsible for approving leave applications, dealing with absences 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 issues 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 the 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 the project manager so that he can solely focus on the current project.
However, both roles 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 the allocation of resources and the operations manager relies on project managers for the quality of individual projects. Enroll in PMP certification training to gain the best skills and practices that will take your projects to glory, and give you the professional expertise in your project management career.