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What’s the Difference Between Task, Project, and Process Management?

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When it comes to buying the right technology for your company, it’s hard to know where to start.

There are endless shelves of software products that promise to revolutionize the way that you do business.

There is website after website with program downloads that say they’ll help innovate how you do accounting or marketing or sales.

But task, project, and process management all kind of look the same. How are you supposed to tell the difference?

task, project, and process management

We’ll break down task management, project management and process management separately below.

What Makes Task Management Unique?

Task management is the foundation for creating efficient workflow in organizations. Many times, it’s part of both project management and process management, which is the reason that people commonly confuse the three. However, task management is not a substitute for either process or project management–think of it more like a foundation for both of them.

Task management is a process that enables the full life cycle management of tasks. The main use of this process is for an individual or group to achieve a goal. To accomplish this goal, tasks are accumulated and then ranked by complexity. Successfully managing these tasks takes planning, testing, tracking and reporting.

The basic activities of task management include keeping track of status, time, priority, recurrence, financial and human resources assignments, notifications, and more.

In short, you can think of task management like a to-do list. Managers have a project goal, they then come up with all of the tasks required to achieve this goal. Once they have the tasks, they then prioritize them, assign them to individuals and give them deadlines. It’s essentially the optimal way for determining when a goal will be accomplished and holding team members accountable for their responsibilities in achieving the goal.

When Should You Use Task Management?

With less than a third of projects being completed within the budget and the timeframe, task management has become seen as a key tool to success. Task management should be used for any project or goal that a business is working on. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a project that relates directly to the organization’s products or services, but it can. It also doesn’t have to be a temporary project. It can be ‘business as usual’ work that is done on a regular and permanent basis.

If your company develops software, you should use task management (and task management software) to oversee the production of each piece of software that is being developed, as well as each patch or update that is added on. Every software package development phase can be divvied up into tasks, which are given deadlines and assigned to team members.  You should also use task management for the marketing and advertising of each piece of software.

Every marketing campaign can also use task management. They can be broken down into each piece of content that needs to be created, when it should be created by and who should create it.

Even long-term goals of the organization can be assisted by task management. The objectives that need to be achieved can be turned into tasks and then assigned to the individual who will work to achieve that task over a longer period of time.

What Makes Project Management Unique?

Project management involves the initiation, planning, design, execution, construction, monitoring, control, and closing of a team’s specific goal. This goal is a short-term project with very specific success criteria—a service or product with a defined beginning and end. This type of management stands in contrast to general management of a business, which has repetitive and permanent activities. Project management has a temporary, constrained scope, budget, quality, and time.

The software that is designed for project management (project management software) helps managers do everything from plan and organize to manage resources and make cost estimations to oversee workflow and complete documentation.

While task management is best described as an extremely detailed checklist that could be either temporary or permanent, project management is temporary and encompasses tasks as well as detailed strategic project planning. Basically, it has much more depth to it than task management.

When Should You Use Project Management?

Project management should not be used on any aspect of business that is permanent. It is a temporary form of management that always has a completion date.

When it comes to temporary work, project management can be used on any business product or service to oversee the team members, budget, resources, communication, documentation–essentially, every single aspect that has any touch point with the project will be umbrellaed under project management. This means when an organization is updating their social media presence, when they want to add a product to their range, when they want to change their customer onboarding approach. Any business goal that has a completion date can be project managed.

What Makes Process Management Unique?

The goal of process management is to make improvements to business processes. This type of management begins with defining the process that needs to be managed. Then it moves into visualizing, measuring, controlling, reporting, and, finally, improving. The goal is to both make customers happier and increase profitability. As Peter Franz, author of Value-Driven Business Process Management: The Value-Switch For Lasting Competitive Advantage, has said:

People in a process culture understand how the concept of an end-to-end business process provides value to clients and how their individual roles impact that value.

Process management is used to make tasks more repeatable, efficient, and effective. With process management, there is no time constraint and no deadline. It is ongoing.

Process management typically follows a five-stage process, which is continually repeated to ensure that all processes are always being improved:

  1. Design: This stage entails identifying the existing processes as well as designing potential processes. The process flow, included factors, notifications and alert, escalations, service level agreements, standard operation procedures, and other mechanisms are included.
  2. Modeling: During this step, combinations of variables are tested on the process.
  3. Execution: In this stage, the design is tested out.
  4. Monitoring: At this point, while the design is being executed, it is also being monitored.
  5. Optimization: The final step, which then feeds back into modeling, includes identifying opportunities and bottlenecks, adjusting the design, and starting the process over again. If optimization is not working, rather than moving into modeling, the process will be re-engineered.

When Should You Use Process Management?

Process management is an ongoing form of management. However, that doesn’t mean it should be used on every aspect of business. Process management isn’t effective with short-term, once-off projects—or for that matter, any projects that are temporary. People engaging with process management typically use business process management software.

Ideally, process management should be used on permanent procedures in a business. This can include everything from the customer onboarding system to product development techniques. The desired result is to make what a company does every day better and better. One example of a process that drives revenue is customer onboarding.

Summary

Task management can be long-term or short-term, but it simply breaks down a project or goal into steps that need to be achieved, assigns a deadline and a team member who is responsible, and monitors the progress. Project management can only be short-term. It is the complete and comprehensive oversight of any temporary project, including personnel and resources involved, communication, documentation’s, workflow, and so much more. Process management is only long-term. Its purpose is to improve repetitive business processes.

When you are running a business, you want to have the best tools at your fingertips. Capterra lets you browse lots of tools. But before you can do that, you need to understand the tools, which ones are essential to you, and how the various tools differ from one another. When you master this, you can easily identify the software that will best fit your needs. With that ability you can then utilize each individual system to its full potential so that your business can get the most out of it.

Looking for Project Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Project Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Amit Kothari

Amit Kothari spent a decade in London at the cutting edge of collaboration technologies and process improvement for the enterprise. His clients were the world’s largest companies, law firms and government entities. After seeing many adoption and other failures in collaboration tools, he realized that the disruption of this industry depended on making business processes easy to track and improve. This not only makes doing a repeatable workflow incredibly easy, but also gathers necessary information that can be used by AI/machine learning to improve the workflow. The result is Tallyfy, which is funded and backed by the two leading accelerators in Silicon Valley – 500 Startups and Alchemist Accelerator. Tallyfy targets mid-size companies, but also has enterprise customers looking at the product as a part of their digital transformation strategy.

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