Process Vs. Project : What is the Difference and What’s Right For You?

• BPM

The project vs project discussion is not new. Even though the definitions of both these terms seem to delineate the difference clearly, there appears to be an overlap in practical applications. While both are integral to businesses, depending on the end result you want to achieve, you have to choose one or the other.

In this article, we’ll see exactly what the differences are and how to choose the right one for your requirements. But first…

Meet Chet

Chet works in the financial department of a midsize company. Every day, Chet has some tasks to get done. Some of them are routine things like processing all the travel reimbursements for the day. Some of them are associated with a short-term project, like gathering the numbers for a new presentation that his boss Angela wants. And some of them are just random things like submitting his roster for the upcoming inter-office curling tournament.

Process Vs. Project Management

What is Process Management?

For Chet, handling the reimbursement claims is an example of a business process. It’s a system that has been set up to be done the same way every time.

A process is a set of data and a path for that data to follow. Think of it like a roller coaster. The car you sit in is like a form that captures a certain type of data. Then, the car goes along a predetermined process to bring it to completion.

Like projects, processes are collaborative. But unlike projects, processes can also included automated system tasks. All of the tasks for completion are known beforehand. Processes can include conditions and parallel branches to direct the data in different ways, but all of the structure is set up beforehand.

Processes can handle unlimited volume. With proper maintenance, a roller coaster can handle an unlimited number of rides. A process can continue to exist indefinitely as well, unlike a task and a project which have end dates.

The goal of process management is efficiency. Process management tries to reduce the friction in the process to zero. It wants things to happen faster and more efficiently all the time, including identifying opportunities for automation.

The key features of process management software are intelligent design and integration with other software. At every point in the process, the person or system should have all of the information needed and nothing more. Data can also be pulled and pushed from existing data sets and complementary functional software such as financial or HR-related software.

Data in process management software moves automatically. No one needs to push the data; it just flows on its own. Data on the process can also be gathered and analyzed to determine how well the process is functioning.

What is Project Management?

In Chet’s example, Angela’s presentation is a project. It’s a one-off event that has a specific end date. Since Chet’s team doesn’t normally do these presentations, Angela quickly assigned roles to different people. Chet knows he’s gathering the data for a particular chart right now. What he doesn’t know is that, later, Angela is going to ask him to find some images online to make the slides better.

Projects are generally collaborative. They involve a team of people doing several different tasks. Projects also have an end date and are not usually repeated in the exact same way.

The exact steps to complete the project aren’t always known at the beginning. The team might have an idea of how to execute a project, but they aren’t 100% confident. Projects have a lot of uncertainty about them, and tasks are often assigned ad-hoc depending on who is available or most skilled.

Projects also tend to have a limit on volume. There are only so many projects a team can take on at one time. Some common examples of project management are Kissflow Project, Trello, Basecamp, Asana, and Wrike. Many of these use a drag-and-drop interface where it is easy to create and assign tasks.

Project vs Process: What is the Difference?

Process Management Project Management 
Goal Efficiency Transparency
Key Features Intelligent Design, Integration Flexibility, Quick Actions
Examples Kissflow Process, Process Street, Process Maker Kissflow Project, BaseCamp, Wrike, Asana
Built for Companies Teams
What happened to Data Data Moves Automatically Data Moves Manually
⋙ Thinking of BPM, but unsure which way to use it? We’ve written about choosing the right BPM methodology here.

The goal of project management is to give a transparent view of what is going on. The project manager needs to have a full picture on what everyone is working on all at once, and it is helpful for everyone to be able to quickly communicate about a common project.

The key feature of project management software is flexibility and quick actions. As soon as one stage of the project is completed, all of the data should be able to be parsed up and given to the next stage. If a new, unplanned step occurs, the team shouldn’t miss a beat.

Data in project management software moves, but always manually. Once Chet completes his work on the report, he must find a way to send it to the next person. In the software, he might need to notify someone that he’s completed a job or drag a task to someone else’s card.

⋙ Check out why these 6 BPM Software are at the top of the competition!

Can recurring projects become processes?

Yes. For example, if Chet and Angela end up working on this presentation monthly, they may be able to design an efficient automated process to make the tasks easier to do each time. In fact, most organizations would do well to identify a process as soon as it starts to evolve and study it to find the best way to make it run efficiently.

Which one do you need?

As you can see, project management and process management are very different things. Which one do you need? Are you looking for a way to better organize all of your own tasks? Do you need a very flexible way to help your team complete projects? Or have your systems matured enough to where you should be focusing on creating efficient processes?

Many people use project management software to handle tasks or processes. And some people use Kissflow Process to handle projects. While it’s possible to do this, it’s a stretch on the system because it isn’t what it was designed to do. When you want transparency, project management is the way to go. When you want efficiency, you need to change to process management.

Most businesses think they need project management software but actually would benefit more from looking at their regularly occurring processes.

When you are ready to find a solution for your process management, start with a free trial of Kissflow to see what is possible!

Related Resources