Three Tips To Help Keep Your Project Team On Track to Achieving Its Goals
by Jonathan Sapir, on
Processes that are disguised as projects can pose a threat to your business — plain and simple. Business Process Management (BPM) industry thought leader, Alex Hughes, wrote about how to detect the differences between the two like this:
“Project management is a term that gets used too frequently and in the wrong context in the enterprise environment. Teams are too quick to jump the gun on labeling any organization effort that includes tasks with assigned due dates a project, which is why processes are misidentified and mistreated as projects.”
By miscategorizing a process as a project, teams risk completing tasks successfully out of the gate. Typically, project team members will ask themselves “What are the main tasks associated with this upcoming project?” And if they can answer that question with responses like, “begin requisition,” “send notification letter,” or “log hours,” then they should consider asking the followup question, “Is what I’m describing actually a project or is it a process?”
The diagram below illustrates the critical differences between processes and projects:
A process is defined as repeatable steps shown in a deliberate order, while a project is defined as a single, multi-step endeavor. Traditionally, enterprise-level projects function as major, one-off ventures with dedicated resources responsible for completing unique tasks. For example, a project could entail replacing an office phone system or switching corporate health care providers — basically projects live outside of the regular operational processes of a business.
Here’s why understanding the difference between projects and processes — if a company chooses to invest in a project management software, they’ll often make the common mistake from the very beginning of the project planning phases of assuming that the project is a project when it could very well be a process. This can be severely problematic when it comes to achieving a desired project outcome.
Here are three tips to help keep your project team on track to achieving its goals:
Tip # 1 | Identify whether your initiative pipeline involves project tasks or a process tasks.
I like to ask my clients to list some of the main project activities they feel they need to complete. They often respond with answers like “feed client data into software databases,” “send project kick-off letter,” or “request references upon project completion,” etc,. And I always follow-up with the question, “How many times do you complete these tasks per month on average?” to gauge whether this is truly a project or if it’s an operational workflow that’s part of a larger process. It’s typically at this moment where the client realizes that these repetitive, standardized tasks aren’t a project but indeed a process. For example, if you’ve been assigned a project that involves preparing research reports on an ongoing basis, your process may reflect the further steps illustrated in the flowchart below:
In reality, you could break this research reporting process down into sub-processes if you acknowledge and treat it as a process not a project like so:
The ability to embed automated decision-making as shown above demonstrates the benefit of a BPM system that can work within unique workflow conditions. This ensures consistency in process execution and eliminates the risk for potential error arising from task incompletion.
Tip # 2 | Understand the skills it takes to design a process vs manage a project.
Process designers are responsible for creating unique workflows that maximize efficiencies for the sequence in which tasks are completed, the skills required to get tasks completed and the rules that govern hand-offs between each task. Process designers understand how to develop a 360° view of a process with optimal efficiency and can specify expected task duration and completion date. Project managers on the other hand, are responsible for using processes as a jumping off point to build a project plan and oversee schedule creation, resource assignment and ensure that the project is on track to meet its final milestone and projected objectives.
Tip #3 | Use a configurable BPM system to help you facilitate project processes.
A BPM worth considering will provide a lot more functionality than just decision automation (discussed in Tip #1). It includes the ability to build forms, assign those forms to tasks based on a specific set of criteria, automating email sends, maintaining up-to-date database information and enforcing task rules that ensure all task prerequisites are met prior to reaching completion status.
An effective BPM combines the power of process management with CRM tools alleviate pain points that can’t otherwise be solved for with out-of-the-box solutions.