This Guest paper was submitted for publication and is copyright to Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez © 2019.
The paper has been extracted from Chapter 3 of Antonio's 2019 book: The Project Revolution.
Published here July 2019

PART 1 | The Differences between "Projects" and "Day-to-Day Operational Activities"
So What is Project Management? | My Simple Definition of Project Management | Conclusions

In Part 1 of this paper, I described how organizations have difficulty getting to grips with the concepts of projects, how the idea of project evolved and some of the remarkable structures built in the past. In this Part 2, I want to examine the differences between "projects" and "day-to-day operational activities", what is project management anyway, and my simple definition.

The Differences between "Projects" and "Day-to-Day Operational Activities"

It is helpful to understand how projects differ from operations and day-to-day activities:

  • Projects are one-off investments designed to achieve predetermined objectives, whereas operations are day-to-day activities with similar objectives every year (with some marginal improvements).
  • Projects are restricted in terms of time and budget and are staffed with temporary team members. In contrast, operations are repetitive, can be more easily automated, operate according to a yearly budget and are staffed with full-time team members.
  • Projects need different types of resources and competencies than do operations. Project leaders tend to be more generalist, and they need to work transversely to bring different views together and thus require diplomacy and negotiation skills. They also need to be good at managing uncertainty, because large strategic projects are not predictable from one week to another. In contrast, operations resources tend to be highly technical and experts in their part of the business. They master areas such as finance, marketing or operations.

As an aside, it is worth noting that the term project (singular) clearly refers to a specific initiative as described earlier. Therefore, one might expect that the term "project management" would likewise refer to the management of a specific project. Indeed, this was true in the mid to late 1900s. Today, however, there is an ever-increasing scope for projects in new and expanding technologies that are frequently conducted in concert, as in "programs" and "project portfolios". As a result, the term "project management" is now used to imply the whole gamut of an organization's project related activities.


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