Project Management vs Work Management: What You Need to Know

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The project management field has an abundance of theories, methodologies, research, examples, communities, and resources.

Unfortunately, work management is often left out. Few know what it is, let alone how to use it and where to learn about it.

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That’s about to change.

In this article, you will learn what work management is, how it differs from traditional project management, and which of the two management solutions best suits your company’s needs.

Project vs Operations Management

Project management is, by definition, the “application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”

Let’s take a look at the definition of project by the Association for Project Management:

A project is a unique, transient endeavor, undertaken to achieve planned objectives, which could be defined in terms of outputs, outcomes or benefits. A project is usually deemed to be a success if it achieves the objectives according to their acceptance criteria, within an agreed timescale and budget.

To summarize, a project is limited in time, unique, and ad-hoc work, with a clear objective defining its success. Teams are ephemeral and possess complementary skill sets.

Operations management is basically the opposite of project management. Here is the definition from the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge):

Operations  are  an  organizational  function  performing  the  ongoing  execution  of  activities  that  produce the same product or provide a repetitive service (…) Operations are permanent endeavors that produce repetitive outputs, with resources assigned to do basically the same set of tasks according to the standards institutionalized in a product life cycle.

In other words, operations management is a continuous process, where work is repetitive, and the success is based on achieving growth. In operations management, teams share similar skill sets and are more consistent in time.

The biggest difference between project and operations management is the intensity of change that it generates within an organization. Project management often provokes abrupt innovative changes, while operations management induces continuous step changes.

Now that we are clear on what project management is, and is not, we can dive into what work management is.

So what is work management?

Work management pertains to managing individual and team workflow and workload – whether within the scope of a project or related to organizational operations.

It can be associated with the application of some of the core principles of project management outside of the project management scope.

Projects revolve around teamwork and collaboration, while work management is managed at an individual level. Some people manage inquiries from their email inbox, other write down their own to-do lists.

While the project management field is rich in methodologies and dedicated software, there is little information or knowledge about work management, or rather, teamwork management.

Methods and processes are often used in work management, but collaboration is omitted. This is why teams should empower themselves with tools that share some of the best qualities found in project management software.

Workflow structure

Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company; defines work management as follows:

Work management is a set of software products and services that apply workflow structure to the movement of information as well as to the interaction of business processes and human worker processes that generate the information. Work management streamlines and transforms crucial business processes and thus can improve results and performance.

Translation: work management is software that gives structure to the execution of processes (tasks) and to the flow of information (internal communication), to improve performance.

The workflow structure can take many different forms and is highly dependent on the organizational structure and on the nature of the tasks and processes being performed. For this reason, work management software needs to be highly flexible in the way it adds structure.

A Place for Collaboration

Work management should not only give structure but should also foster collaboration in the workplace.

Collaboration can happen at different levels: at the organizational level, the department level, and team level.

Using dedicated software can help organizations, departments, teams, and individuals organize, manage, and share their work more effectively, therefore increasing collaboration.

Here are the core functionalities of work management software:

  • Collaborative task management
  • Centralized communication
  • Document sharing

What does work management software do that project management software does not?

The limits of project management software

Project management, as the definition mentions, is limited in time and budget. Most project management software include features such as budget planning and project schedules such as GANTT charts.

While these are important features when managing projects, they are not always necessary when managing operations work. Also, the project management structure is too rigid to be adapted to work that happens outside of projects.

Work management software

This is where the work management software comes in. It usually packs up less advanced features to be more accessible, with a smoother learning curve.

Its structure is more flexible because it does not revolve around projects, permitting discussion – and more generally, collaboration – to arise on any topic.

So how do I know which one is best for me?

When to use project management software

There are hundreds of project management software options to choose from, with each fitting into its own niche. Some were designed for a particular methodology while others are broader and more general.

Project management software should be used only when working solely in project mode. It is best when there is a project manager with extensive knowledge of project management methodologies and execution.

When to use work management software

Because work management software is more flexible and accessible, it is best to use it when your organization does not revolve solely around projects but also has a lot of operational work to support.

Even though work management software might not always be as extensive as project management software, it can be used to manage projects too – only less rigorously.

It is also best to consider when there is a need to structure operations work and foster communication and collaboration between departments inside an organization.

In which case, you can implement the tool to your whole organization for better information flow and collaboration throughout the company.

Conclusion

Work management software enables collaboration to take place everywhere in the organization, giving structure to workflow and fostering internal communications.

With its flexible nature, it adapts to all businesses operational workflows and can even replace project management software in certain situations.

Which of project or work management software is best suited to your needs? Do you feel that your operational work should be given the same tools as your project work to be more efficient? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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

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About the Author

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Mattias Le Cren

Mattias is a QA and Content Manager at Azendoo, a work management application. He writes about productivity, collaboration, and project management on the Azendoo blog, and is always looking for ways to improve his workflow.

Comments

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Nice one. You simply solved my assignment. Thanks again

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Thanks a lot for this information. This cleared me of many things, before I always confuse some operations to be a project

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