In many organizations, keeping the boundary between projects and operations clearly defined is beneficial. This helps ensure appropriate follow through on one-time undertakings with minimal disruption of regularly scheduled work. However, there are some situations that call for a new approach to operations – one that harnesses the efficiency and accountability that comes with effective project management. Obviously, contract based industries such as consulting and construction run virtually all core business processes as projects. However, there are also other organizations that may choose to run some day to day operations as a series of projects. For example:
Print or Electronic Publishing – magazines, newspapers, periodicals, journals, newsletters, etc. The creation of each issue is a separate project while distribution would generally be seen as operational.
Fashion Design/Production – manufacturing is operational but the design of each new season’s line can be managed as a project.
Software Vendors –development and rollout of significant upgrades/new versions may be done on a regular schedule following a well developed series of steps or protocols. However, this aspect of business operations may still be managed as a project for each new iteration of the software.
As you can see, the well-established cyclical nature of these endeavors is what makes them operational from one perspective. However, the need to generate new ideas for implementation and the requirement to meet tight deadlines can make project management methodology applicable as well.
Can You Benefit From Applying This Model?
While your company might not be in an industry where “management by projects” is suitable for every activity, there may be some operations that can be transformed into recurring projects. This approach taps into the benefit associated with having a standard operational blueprint in place and provides greater opportunity for process innovation and goal setting/achievement within the scope of each “project”.
Take a look at your regular business operations and identify those that meet one or more of the following criteria:
- The objectives or goals of the activity and resources required vary a great deal from one month, season, or year to the next
- Intensive involvement on the part of upper management is frequently required to provide direction
- The operation involves regular brainstorming sessions that may affect decision making down the road
- Costs and labor investment seem to be gradually spiraling out of control
- Competitors are constantly innovating in this area of their operations
Not every operation that meets the above criteria needs to be permanently converted to a project basis. In some cases, it may be preferable to manage operations as projects for a set period of time during which each business process is fully investigated and new operational protocols are put in place. However, even after the completion of the project management phase, some of the systems used to monitor progress, costs, and outcomes may still be left in place.