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Project management vs. operational management: how to choose the right one

Blog: Monday Project Management Blog

Projects and operations both work towards the same goal of creating value through products or services. Managing either aspect of a business comes with unique challenges that you can overcome with strong leadership skills and a little know-how. But the first step is knowing whether you’re dealing with project management vs. operational management.

In this article, we’ll cover some basic information about both aspects of business management. We’ll also look at how you can do both on and answer some frequently asked questions relevant to managing operations or projects.

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What is project management?

Project management, or PM, is the guidance of a project along its critical path. Projects can help an established business introduce a new, unique product or service to its customers or improve existing processes.

Project management professionals may oversee construction jobs, software development, product development, or marketing campaigns.

What is operational management?

Operational management views production operations through a lens of efficiency. Operational managers utilize skills in process optimization, communication, and business strategy to maximize efficiency within a company.

Operations may work toward providing a product, service, or result to clients and customers. Operational management tasks include:

The overlap of tasks that both PM and OM teams handle can blur the line between the two. Ultimately,  the “how” and “why” behind each effort are different.

Project management vs. operational management: what is the difference

The Project Management Institute, or PMI, provides us with a definition for what a project is. PMI states that “All projects are a temporary effort to create value through a unique product, service or result.” Operational management focuses instead on the day-to-day tasks required for an organization to continue delivering products or services.

Project and operational management responsibilities

Project managers are expected to leverage their skills and knowledge to:

Operational management teams have similar tasks with different goals. These tasks include:

The skills and education required for success in either role also differs and can change between organizations or projects. Managing either side of production takes strong systems and software, a solution offered at

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Managing projects or operations on lets you streamline project work or daily operational management tasks. Management teams can view project deadlines, operational schedules, and current task progress all in one central dashboard or get an updated view on project status at a glance.

The organization and assignment of tasks is automated in’s Work OS. Create a backlog of activities that produce value for your project or organization. As tasks are completed, new ones are instantly assigned based on priority. Different templates provide you with a framework to start designing your perfect workflow within our Work OS.

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Some templates for both functions

Project and operations managers and teams handle a variety of tasks every day. templates allow you to support teams with consistent requests and an open channel of communication. Adjust each template as needed with areas dedicated to team feedback. Use these and other templates to create a smooth management experience.

Project management plan template

Our Project Management Plan Template gives you a blank, organized visual roadmap. Fill each section with project details to plan, initiate, and execute project activities. Explore the intuitive template workflow to learn how your teams work best. Your team’s efforts can be focused on generating as much value through early completion or additional product features.

Finance requests template

Use the Finance Requests Template for tracking project or organizational cash flow. Get an updated status on outstanding invoices and bills with status columns that sort by completion. Use analytics gained from our Work OS to adjust financial planning and project budgets accordingly.

Learning project or operational management takes time and firsthand experience. You can get a headstart with some of the most commonly asked questions and their answers.


Why should operations managers understand project management?

Operations managers are tasked with optimizing existing systems and processes. Learning project management skills can help you gain new perspectives to apply to your regular activities.

Project managers work with multiple teams from multiple disciplines. Management teams learn which tasks can be completed by certain individuals in order to reassign the workforce to address changes. Operations managers leverage this skill to shift responsibilities and resources in order to achieve success. Project management skills also help you respond effectively to emergency situations and recover any lost productivity.

A strong skill learned during project management is how to be agile during production. Stakeholder requirement changes such as deadline adjustments, supplier swaps, and request alterations all need an agile mindset to accommodate. Operations managers better support their teams when quick and effective solutions are found. You can build confidence by tracking these changes and analyzing the results.

What is a project vs. BAU?

Simply put, a project is temporary while BAU, or business as usual, consists of activities an organization anticipates completing for the foreseeable future. BAU activities include assigning work, office maintenance, scheduling, payroll, and operational management. Daily activities that are considered integral to an organization’s operation can be categorized as BAU.

Projects have a more focused scope for tasks. Projects work within predetermined timelines rather than an ongoing schedule. Project teams often wear multiple hats whereas BAU teams are specialized for their specific job function. Tasks on a project are also more finite compared to the standard repetitive tasks completed by BAU teams.

What most distinguishes a project from day-to-day operations?

Projects aim to change something about an organization while operational management perfects existing processes or procedures.

The project life cycle ends once the end goal is met, and operations teams take on the completed work for ongoing maintenance and adjustments. Quality control is another key difference between project and operational management. A project’s end product or service only needs to be delivered once. Operations teams support consistent quality once a project’s goal is met and offered to multiple clients and customers.

Elevate your management style and skills with

Whether you’re coming from an operational or project management background, there’s always something new to learn. You can take the best methodologies and templates from both sides of the management coin thanks to the

Customize templates to match your organization’s branding for consistent and professional messaging. Collaborate in real-time with stakeholders, project managers, and project teams for rapid implementation of feedback.

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