Operations Management vs Project Management: What’s the Difference?

Operations management vs project management? Should you care about the difference?

Yes, you should.

Project management and operations management are two often competing terms in the realm of business operations.

While both harken back to planning and strategic planning for your business, they’re not synonyms. Thus, the task of managing projects warrants extensive planning and a deep understanding of scope management.

All project activities, from project initiation to project closure, exist to honor customer demands and stakeholder management. Addressing problems and risk management is another way of creating value that you can sell.

Yet, standardized practices and continuous processes point to the need for strong leadership and leadership skills. Hence, the project manager should hold the reins, much like in lean operations, and pave the path forward.

Therefore, project management professionals, often backed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), look for new ways to optimize the team’s performance and resource allocation.

To do so, they work together and strive to innovate manufacturing operations. Hence, depending on the company and its operational strategy, a project manager’s role can mean many things, from quality assurance to production planning.

Key takeaways

  • Project management is about managing specific projects with a defined beginning and end, while operations management involves ongoing processes for efficiency and effectiveness in business operations​​.
  • Project managers handle project scheduling, team management, and resource allocation, using tools like Gantt charts and principles such as Six Sigma and Total Quality Management (TQM)​​.
  • Operations management can involve different production types like mass and batch production and focuses on continuous process improvement​​.
  • The educational background for these roles varies, with project managers often holding a bachelor’s degree and operations managers typically possessing an MBA or similar qualification​

The Term “Project”

The Project Management Institute frames a set of activities with a single goal as a project. To function as such, the project needs clear starting and ending points, often visualized using a Gantt chart or work breakdown structure (WBS).

Also, a single person or a group of people, understanding the nuances of capacity planning, can be at the helm of the endeavor.

Project managers oversee the various project teams, often asking them to report progress and ensuring quality control. This quality control, combined with Six Sigma principles, is the key to reaching the optimal end date and wrapping things up.

The project team does its best with the limited resources available for that task. That way, they resolve the operations management vs. project management dilemma, often leaning on Total Quality Management (TQM) principles.

The Ongoing Processes and Interactions

The key stakeholders, deeply involved in supply chain management, have much to gain (or lose) from the current operational policies. This umbrella term refers to risk management, a focus on team building, and the intricacies of inventory control.

Either way, the goal is to produce a deliverable product, ensuring value chain optimization. Hence, the team should decide on the operations management vs. project management issue quickly, understanding the importance of continuous improvement.

Therefore, project management, with its project lifecycle, is the framework that fits the duration of the project. In comparison, the term “management” refers to an ever-lasting activity, much like day-to-day management.

Hence, business management is not all about supplying services. Instead, it often boils down to securing the know-how and other technical skills, ensuring process improvement at every step.

Project Managers and Common Reference Points

maxresdefault Operations Management vs Project Management: What’s the Difference?

Project managers oversee a slew of tasks to achieve business objectives and strategic planning. Regarding the operations management vs. project management question, they:

  • Envision and schedule new projects, often using tools like a Gantt chart.
  • Ensure proper input from all team members, emphasizing team management.
  • Direct the pace of the workflow and continuous processes.
  • Provide a feasible roadmap and work breakdown structure (WBS).
  • Stay within the project budget and manage resource allocation.
  • Evaluate progress, utilize performance metrics, and pass on the results.

A detailed project management plan, backed by principles like Six Sigma, can improve existing continuous improvement processes. Also, it summarizes the baseline of the action plan and highlights the pending updates. So, it’s about monitoring each step of the way, ensuring quality assurance.

As for the reports, progress measurement focuses on the distance toward full completion. On the other hand, performance measurement, a key aspect of Total Quality Management (TQM), is a more detailed take on ongoing tasks. With that method, stakeholders and those involved in supply chain management can gauge the efficacy of the management team.

What “Operations Management” Refers To

Operations management, more than just accounting operations, is about business operations and efficiency and effectiveness. It evaluates the team’s progress, resource spending, and inventory control. At the same time, it compares the current pace with the overall project requirements, ensuring alignment with the operational strategy.

This is an ongoing process across various departments, emphasizing lean operations. While all tasks should achieve success, the team must not breach budget constraints. To cover all fronts, the manufacturing industries, focusing on production planning, use three main types of operations management:

  • Mass production recurring operations;
  • Batch production system; and
  • Non-repetitive tasks, often involving process improvement.

Operations Managers and Their Daily Tasks

maxresdefault Operations Management vs Project Management: What’s the Difference?

The operations manager oversees all production operations and day-to-day management. Their task includes ensuring proper team communication and smooth project work. Therefore, they have a big say in the operations management vs. project management methods, often leaning on standardized practices.

Other important aspects within their job descriptions include:

  • Designing all types of products and services, ensuring value chain optimization.
  • Ensuring an unhindered supply chain and capacity planning.
  • Resolving various logistics challenges.
  • Planning out a streak of activities, often backed by Project Management Institute (PMI) principles.
  • Assessing the capacity of a specific project, ensuring resource management.
  • Providing quality control and adhering to Total Quality Management (TQM) principles.
  • Identifying project blockers and areas for continuous improvement.
  • Focus on resource management and inventory control.
  • Complete multiple ongoing maintenance tasks, emphasizing lean operations.
  • Provide feedback for boosting performances, ensuring alignment with the operational strategy.

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Key Differences and Required Skill Sets

Necessary Level of Training

A bachelor’s degree is often a necessity for a position in project management, especially for those aiming for Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. As for the operations managers, most of them earned Master’s Degrees in Business Administration, aligning with the intricacies of business operations and strategic planning. However, certificates from institutions like the Project Management Institute (PMI) and relevant working experiences in areas like supply chain management or production planning are other common requirements.

Thus, both positions are demanding, and companies often look for battle-tested applicants with a strong background in leadership and team management for the job. Yet, the competition is tough in both the qualitative and quantitative sense, especially when it comes to resource management and continuous improvement.

This means that most job hunters will possess those levels of education. As a result, they can resolve any operations management vs. project management issues, understanding the nuances of scope management and capacity planning.

Preferable Set of Skills

Though not universal values, several skills span across most management positions:

  • Advanced communication skills, crucial for stakeholder management.
  • Proper leadership capabilities and understanding of lean operations.
  • Knowing how to manage pressing project deadlines and continuous processes.
  • Resolving unrelated issues at once, emphasizing problem-solving and process improvement.
  • Providing creative solutions without alerting the higher-ups, ensuring value chain optimization.
  • A slew of practical skills and know-how, from Six Sigma principles to Total Quality Management (TQM).

The Job Growth Aspect

Factors like the chosen industry branch, operational strategy, and past successes affect a manager’s salary. So, even a similar position in another city might net you quite a different sum in the end.

Currently, the annual average stands between $53,475-$130,517 for project managers, according to Indeed at least. Hence, the national average sits around the $83,543 per year mark.

As for operations managers, their salaries belong within the $41,917-$115,048 yearly range, reflecting their role in day-to-day management and inventory control. Therefore, the national average reads an annual sum of $69,444.

Overseeing the Project Budget

The operation manager paces out the spending across all departments, ensuring alignment with production planning and inventory control.

This task encompasses the working conditions, monthly salaries, etc.

However, project managers limit this assignment to one project at a time, focusing on project lifecycle and resource allocation. In that way, they focus on a successful outcome. To keep a fresh perspective, they note any revenue generated along the way, ensuring quality assurance.


Project management is a task that’s dependent on the said project length, often visualized using a Gantt chart or work breakdown structure (WBS).

So, it begins and ends together with the project in question. Within that time frame, project managers work on developing a good workflow and clearing milestones.

Operations management is a more complicated process, emphasizing continuous improvement and standardized practices.

It isn’t confined to a single project but is an always ongoing endeavor instead. As such, it produces recurring outcomes like new lines of products, ensuring value chain optimization.


Project management always has a clear goal as a final output, often backed by Project Management Institute (PMI) principles. Since a single project can only create the projected revenue, the managers can funnel the work, ensuring alignment with strategic planning. In that way, they inch closer to various business objectives.

In comparison, operations management is more about ensuring the house remains in order, focusing on lean operations and process improvement. It’s about maintaining the fundamentals of the system in place. That means there’s no palpable “product” acting as an output due to operations management, but rather a focus on efficiency and effectiveness.

Needed Manpower

Project management comprises teams that govern resource allocation, streamline the workflow, and ensure quality assurance. Hence, they are often ad hoc, backed by principles like Six Sigma, and disband after reaching certain business objectives.

An operations management team ensures the company keeps on making new products, aligning with the value chain, and managing the supply chain. Therefore, they also work on deriving optimal future maneuvers, production planning, and brand imaging, emphasizing continuous improvement.

FAQ about operations management vs. project management

What is the difference between operations management and project management?

The management disciplines of operations management and project management are separate. Operations management focuses on the daily operations of an organization, including the management of resources, production planning, quality assurance, and customer service.

On the other hand, project management, often backed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), is concerned with the organization-wide planning, implementation, and monitoring of certain projects with the aim of reaching a given objective within a predetermined project lifecycle.

Which is more important, operations management or project management?

Project management and operations management are both crucial for an organization to succeed. Operations management, emphasizing lean operations, ensures that the company’s daily operations are productive, successful, and satisfy customers.

Project management, with its emphasis on resource management and stakeholder management, ensures that particular projects are finished promptly, affordably, and satisfactorily for all parties involved.

What are the key responsibilities of operations managers and project managers?

Operations managers are in charge of overseeing the organization’s resources, such as personnel, tools, and inventory control. They ensure the company’s everyday operations, aligned with the operational strategy, are successful, efficient, and meet consumer needs.

Project managers, often certified by the Project Management Institute (PMI), must plan, carry out, and monitor certain projects inside a company, ensuring scope management and that projects are finished on schedule, within budget, and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

Can operations management and project management be combined?

In some circumstances, such as when a project is a part of an organization’s routine business operations or involves continuous processes, operations management and project management may be integrated. Project management approaches, like using a Gantt chart or work breakdown structure (WBS), can be applied in this situation to guarantee that the project is finished effectively and efficiently.

What are the key skills required for operations managers and project managers?

Leadership, communication, problem-solving, and organizational abilities are crucial for operations managers, along with a strong understanding of capacity planning and process improvement.

Similar abilities are needed for project managers, as well as the capacity to plan, handle project budgets, and manage risk management.

How do operations managers and project managers measure success?

Efficiency, productivity, and customer happiness are some examples of measures that operations managers use to gauge performance, often leaning on Total Quality Management (TQM) principles. Meeting project goals, maintaining on schedule, and staying under budget, while ensuring quality control, are all ways that project managers gauge their success, often using tools like performance metrics.

What are some common challenges faced by operations managers and project managers?

Operating managers frequently struggle with juggling conflicting priorities, efficient resource management, continuous improvement, and adapting to shifting consumer demands and supply chain management challenges.

Project managers, often aligned with the Project Management Institute (PMI) principles, must manage the project’s scope management, risk management, and dealing with unforeseen developments, among other things.

How do operations management and project management contribute to the overall success of an organization?

Operations management, emphasizing lean operations and standardized practices, ensures that a company’s daily operations are productive, successful, and match consumer needs, often leaning on Total Quality Management (TQM) principles.

Project management ensures that particular projects, from project initiation to project closure, are finished promptly, affordably, and satisfactorily for all parties involved. Both help a business succeed overall by making sure that resources are managed well, business objectives are achieved, and stakeholders are happy.

Are there any similarities between operations management and project management?

Operations management and project management have some characteristics in common, such as the necessity for strong leadership, communication, and problem-solving abilities.

Both also call for skillful planning, resource allocation, and risk management, ensuring alignment with the operational strategy.

Can project management skills be applied to operations management, and vice versa?

When a project is a part of a company’s regular business operations or involves continuous processes, for example, operations management abilities, like capacity planning and inventory control, can be used.

Similarly, when working on a project, operations management abilities can be used to manage resources and guarantee efficiency and effectiveness. Successful managers will have a variety of transferable talents that they can use in both domains, ensuring value chain optimization.

Conclusion on Operations Management vs. Project Management

Companies constantly work on their basic values and the need to remain competitive in an evolving market, emphasizing strategic planning.

Thus, they set new business objectives and try to preserve what’s been built thus far, ensuring quality assurance. To manage such diverging goals, they need proper operations and project management.

As a result, the goals of both teams can meet at certain points, but their final aim remains miles apart. Still, extensive business knowledge and understanding of production planning are necessary for taking up any such position.

Some roles fit a wider field of a company’s portfolio, while others focus on day-to-day management challenges.

Regardless, having a business degree is the first condition for landing a job in project management.

However, you can focus on developing certain skills, like Six Sigma principles, to stand tall above the competition. This might mean having years of hands-on experience within various enterprises, ensuring process improvement at every step.

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