While they share a good number of similarities, project managers and operations managers are ultimately separate jobs that have different responsibilities and expectations. Project managers, in a nutshell, are in charge of overseeing projects. A project, simply put, is a temporary and unique undertaking that is often time-bound and requires a specific amount of resources. Operations managers, on the other hand, are in charge of ensuring that the processes that are central to the continuous everyday operation of the business are running as smoothly as possible.

In a company that specialises in automobile design, for example, a project manager may be tasked with closing down a specific facility because it’s no longer practical for the company to keep it. This task has specific deadlines and other constraints, and once it’s completed, the project manager can move on to other activities. An operations manager in the same company, however, may be tasked to oversee the production of a specific vehicle model. The said operations manager will continue to fulfil this function until the said model is phased out or someone else takes over this task for them.

The Role of a Project Manager

In summary, the projects that project managers oversee exhibit the following qualities:

  • The output of the project is unique or non-repeating in nature.
  • The project has a fixed timeline and budget.
  • The project enables the business to achieve new goals.
  • Once the objective has been achieved, the project ends.

It’s important, then, that project managers are equipped with the right skills and strategies to help the company reach new objectives and milestones. They need to be able to determine the scope of the project that they will be handling as well as plan in detail how they’re going to tackle each step and efficiently use the resources provided to them. The job also requires a bit of an innovative spirit and the capacity to foster and thrive in a dynamic and ever-changing environment.

The Role of an Operations Manager

The activities that an operations manager oversees typically have the following qualities:

  • The task is accomplished repeatedly.
  • The outcome of the activity remains largely unchanged.
  • The methods used to complete the task or product stays the same.
  • The completed product or service earns revenue for the company.

In general, operations managers are required to oversee the day-to-day tasks and activities of the business. They must ensure that the company’s products or services are completed according to the standards set by the company, and that their final output is compliant with the rules set by the relevant authorities and regulatory bodies.

Where Project and Operations Management Intersect

Despite these specific differences, there are many instances where project and operations management overlap. There are key skills in project management that can be of great use to someone who has assumed the responsibility of managing the company’s operations and vice versa. As such, it’s a good idea for managers to acquire strategies and familiarise themselves with some of the most common tools that professionals use to keep track of their projects and the performance and output of their team members. These are just some of the tasks where having both project management and operations management skills is an advantage:

Developing or Expanding a Business or Product

Launching or expanding a business or product requires a mix of sticking with tried-and-tested ideas and coming up with creative ones. The new venture or product must have a solid foundation, and this is where industry best practices come in. At the same time, it must be able to set itself apart from the competition, and this requires a bit of ingenuity and experimentation.

Improving or Developing Processes Central to Business Operations

To improve an existing system, an operations manager must be able to pinpoint the weak and slow steps in the process. The project manager, then, can come up with solutions and collaborate with the operations manager to seamlessly integrate the best option to the existing process.

Ending the Lifecycle of a Particular Product or Service

While the project manager can oversee the process of ending the lifecycle of a product, they still have to coordinate with the operations manager to ensure that they are minimising the effect of this activity on the rest of the company’s operations.

There are many instances when project and operations managers must collaborate and work together to achieve the goals that the company has set. They both need to know how to work with the limited resources provided to them, and they have to come up with a plan to accomplish the one-time or repetitive task that they took responsibility for.

If you’re aiming for one of these positions in your current company, it’s a good idea to improve your management and planning skills as early as now. Our team at Priority Management can help. We offer project and time management courses that will allow you to prepare yourself for the responsibility of leading a team and seeing tasks and activities to completion. Get in touch with us today.

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