Process vs. Project vs. Task Management – What’s Right For You?

Neil Miller

February 27th, 2017 BPM  

The first email customers get from us says, “KiSSFLOW is not for everyone.”

We aren’t trying to scare customers away, but there can be confusion over why people use KiSSFLOW. Many people looking for a project management or a task management solution find their way to us.

But isn’t KiSSFLOW task management software?

No, it’s really not. Task management is the process of managing a task…

Wait, maybe a story would be better.

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. Task Management

What is Task Management?

Task management helps Chet organize all of his tasks no matter where they come from. It’s a helpful way to structure his list of things that must get done.

Task management is mostly for individuals. Some options allow you to share your lists with other people, but the main focus is still on what an individual does.

Some examples of task management software are Todoist, Any.do, Wunderlist, and dozens of other choices. All of these options will let Chet organize his tasks, rank them by importance, and manage what gets his priority everyday.

The goal of task management is to be as productive as possible, whether that means getting more tasks done, or just the important ones.

The key feature of task management software is the ability to organize existing tasks. The best options will be very fluid and can funnel in new tasks intelligently.

Data in task management software is mostly stationary. Inside the task management system of his choice, after Chet completes a task, the data just goes into the archives. It doesn’t move anywhere. If he needs to inform Angela that he finished the slides, he’ll have to notify her some other way.

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 Trello, Basecamp, Asana, and Wrike. Many of these use a drag-and-drop interface where it is easy to create and assign tasks.

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.

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.

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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.

Project vs. Process

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, task management, 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 like Trello to handle tasks or processes. And some people use KiSSFLOW 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!

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  • Loved it..

    • Neil Miller

      🙂

  • A project that uses a repeatable process, such as a project guideline (PMI PMBOK) or other best practice process (QA process) can become an executable manual process. This kind of process doesn’t have to be automated.

    • Neil Miller

      Yeah, good point Paul. Just because it is repeatable doesn’t mean it has to be automated. But I think an organization has to make this choice intentionally, given the massive onslaught of automation coming in.

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