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Operations Management vs. Project Management


If you have ever considered starting a career in the management field, you have probably come across the job descriptions referencing ‘operations management’ and ‘project management’ in your research. At very first glance, these profiles may seem similar. These job roles support the business functions by planning, coordinating, and implementing tasks in pursuit of organizational goals. However, there are some fundamental differences between operations management and project management.

In this post, we will explore the key differences so that you will have all the necessary information that you need to determine which option makes the most sense as per your interest, skills, education background, and career objectives. Let us get started!

What is Operations Management?

Operations management is the field responsible for managing, running, and controlling business operations. Some examples of operations management include manufacturing operations, production operations, accounting operations, maintenance, and software support. This management field ensures that all business operations are resourceful, nominal resources are used, and the expectations and requirements of the customers are met. This management is all about delivering products, achieving quality and standards, and create services.

What is Project Management?

Project management is a temporary endeavour undertaken to produce unique products, services, or results. This management field comes with a defined start and endpoint. The project management professionals (known as project managers) work according to particular organizational goals and objectives. These temporary endeavours help businesses meet their goals by working as per the strategies made. This management area is all about the application of skills, knowledge, techniques, and tools to the project so that it can meet the requirements.

Key Differences between Operations Management and Project Management

The main difference between these profiles comes down to the definition itself. The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as a temporary process to create unique products, services, or results. Operations management, on the other hand, is an ongoing activity that produces repetitive and long-term outputs like manufacturing products, supplying services, and so on.

According to the above-said definitions, the role of an operations manager is ongoing, while the role of a project manager is temporary. Other differences are mainly focused on particular skills, responsibilities, education, etc.

Roles and Responsibilities of Operations Managers

The roles or responsibilities of an operations manager often include but are not restricted to the following:

  • Managing day-to-day operations
  • Finding and addressing issues and opportunities
  • Managing the planning, budgeting, auditing, and reporting
  • Developing operational procedures and policies
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance

Roles and Responsibilities of Project Managers

As a part of their day-to-day roles and responsibilities, a project manager is expected to do the following:

  • Plan and describe projects
  • Manage teams
  • Coordinate and manage the implementation of projects
  • Oversee the schedule
  • Keep an eye on the budget
  • Measure and report progress

Skills Needed for Operations Management and Project Management

To be an effective operations manager or project manager, students must have a certain set of skills. Below, we have listed some points that accurately reflect the skills needed for these positions:

  • Effective Communication: It is needed so that you can effectively communicate and convey your message to the team members, vendors, and key stakeholders involved in operations or projects.
  • Leadership Skills: This skill is extremely important for both the professionals to effectively and easily manage a team and offer essential training and motivation whenever needed.
  • Time Management Skills: To keep activities and tasks on track and as per the schedule, you must have strong time management skills.
  • Organizational Skills: To manage complex processes involved in an ongoing operation or a project, professionals must have effective organizational skills.
  • Problem-Solving and Adaptability: These skills are needed to be flexible and make adjustments when necessary.
  • Technical Skills: No matter which industry or domain you are working in, you must need certain technical skills to anticipate problems and suggest solutions.

One point to keep in mind is that the skills needed for a particular job role typically depend on the domain or industry in which an operation or project manager is working.

Education Requirements for Operations Management and Project Management

To enter either operations management or project management, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in management, business administration, or a similar discipline. Operations managers often differentiate themselves with graduate degrees like Master’s Degree in Business Administrations along with relevant experience.

On the other hand, some project managers stand out by earning additional credentials like the Project Management Professionals (PMP) certification from the PMI. This certification indicates potential employers that the candidate has enough knowledge about project management as a discipline. You can also earn an advanced degree like an MBA in Project Management along with some hands-on experience.

Similarities between Operations Management and Project Management

Operations management and project management can be intersected and aligned. A research paper was published by the IEOM Society in 2018 that stated these two fields share a ‘strong’ alliance. Some potential overlaps have been given below:

  • When the lifecycle of the product ends
  • When businesses develop, improve, or expand a product
  • When product development processes or operations are improved
  • During project closeout, the project managers will have to work with the operations managers to combine new processes with operations

In these scenarios, operations managers and project managers should collaborate to share knowledge and deliverable to ensure positive and desired outcomes for the business. Both these roles have one person at the helm, and they require extensive planning to combat with limited resources.

Closing Remarks

While deciding which career path suits you best, you need to ensure that your preferred field aligns with your objectives. If you think that operations management is for you, consider the essential steps you need to take to jump-start your journey and give yourself an edge over others. Depending on your career goals, earning a degree in business administration or project management could be your very first step to start in this field.

To know more about the international universities/colleges popular for these programs, you can contact AEC. A team of dedicated professionals is there to help and guide you through the process.

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