Process Management Vs. Project Management - What's the Difference

Vinay Agrawwal
July 23, 2022

Project management and process management are terms, which may seem similar, but interestingly, they aren't, and it's important to know the difference between the two.

Why? Because certain business decisions change when you move from one to the other, and if the managers do not know exactly which one they are dealing with, they could end up making the wrong decision.

Consider business tools, for example. To manage sales processes, a company would require a process management tool like a CRM.

To manage tasks within a sales project, however, they would need a task management tool like Asana or Trello.

These tools serve completely different purposes and cannot really be interchanged. Getting them mixed up will result in the business losing vast amounts of time and money.

With the importance of understanding the difference between process management vs. project management covered, let's get into the crux of the article and see how they actually differ.

Process Management vs. Project Management

Understanding the two starts with understanding the terms process and project.

A process can be seen as a blueprint for running business operations. A process is usually repetitive (or can be repeatedly applied within a business operation) and gives people within the company a framework for day-to-day work.

The sales pipeline can be seen as a process. The sales pipeline could be acquiring a lead, qualifying the lead, gathering information, making a proposal, following up, and closing the deal.

This is a repetitive process that is applied to every lead that is captured and tells the sales team how to run their day-to-day operations.

Example of a process

A project, on the other hand, is something a business undertakes; it has a clear goal, a start, and an end date and is made up of singular tasks that have to be completed in order to complete the project.

Building an application, for example, is a project. There is a fixed goal, and in order to deliver it, individual tasks like creating user flow diagrams, UI designing, and programming the app have to be completed.

Example of a project and its tasks

Process management is the management of individual business processes. Creating pipelines, defining funnels, setting SLAs, and so on can be seen as building processes that streamline day-to-day operations.

Project management is the managing of individual projects. It involves using strategies and concepts like Scrum, Six Sigma, Kanban, and so on to ensure projects are completed efficiently.

The Key Differences Between  Project Management and Process Management

Project Management Process Management
Focuses on managing a project which is a finite entity with a start and end date, clear goals, and individual tasks. Focuses on the management of processes which are workflows and frameworks that define how business operations (which can include projects) should run.
Project management is temporary; it starts and ends with each project. Process management is continuous and always ongoing within an organization.
The project management strategies could differ from project to project (they could also stay the same). Processes should ideally remain constant for a business to run smoothly, and process management should ensure it does.
Change management is a part of project management, and projects can undergo changes when needed, especially if it enhances the end result. Processes can improve but should ideally not experience changes, as changes hamper day-to-day operations.
Examples of project management tasks are risk management, change management, cost and estimation management, etc. Examples of process management tasks are SLA management, lead management, communication management, etc.
Project management generally involves planning, execution, monitoring, controlling, and closing. Process management generally involves designing, analyzing, improving, monitoring, and optimizing.
Since project management could differ from project to project, it requires some level of human intervention. Since processes should remain constant, it makes room for complete (or partial) workflow automation.
Good project management helps maintain timelines, improves collaboration within the team, enhances the quality of the result, increases customer satisfaction, etc. Good process management impacts all operations, and that in turn also impacts projects. It enhances productivity, streamlines work, and eliminates guesswork within operations.

Which One Does a Business Need to Focus On?

The answer is obvious - both.

Project management and process management are different but not mutually exclusive. An organization needs projects to earn revenue, and you need processes within a project to ensure it runs smoothly. This means every organization needs to pay equal attention to both project management and process management.

To get it right, all you have to do is be able to define what constitutes process management and project management - hopefully, this article has helped you discern the difference between the two.

One final tidbit we have for you is to go digital. Technology has made it easier to manage both projects and processes with tools like task management systems, collaboration tools, ERPs, etc.

With the right tools, your managers will be able to manage both projects and processes efficiently.