The concept of a Project within the context of Project Management Professional certification has a specific connotation. The concept of Operations within the IT Services Management space also has its own specific implications. Differentiating the two would help shed light on each and clarify how the concepts are both different and complementary to each other.
A project is a means for organizations to achieve specific targets and to implement strategies. The definition of a Project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service”. The key words here are ‘temporary’ and ‘unique’. The word temporary points to the limited duration of a project vis-à-vis the regular or day to day working of an organization.The word unique speaks to a specific purpose, a product or service offered for a limited duration. In other words there is a finite duration for each project – with an unambiguous beginning and an end.
Operations (IT Service Management)
Operations within the context of Information Technology Service Management refers to a set of services and processes that are devised to look after the internal and external requirements of an organization or business; with particular reference to the technology needs of the organization. IT Operations as a concept is defined as processes and people “responsible for the smooth functioning of the infrastructure and operational environments that support application deployment to internal and external customers”. The operations could encompass computer operations, device management, library management, help desk services and network infrastructure management at competitive price points while maintaining standard quality.
Projects and operations – some key differentiators
The key point of difference between Projects and Operations is that projects are of a specific duration whereas operations are ongoing, permanent endeavors.
Operations are based on set procedures that are already in place so that operational activities are cyclical or repetitive in nature; producing more or less similar results each time. On the other hand projects are oriented towards specific results that may be a significant departure from regular operations of the organization in terms of the people involved, the processed employed, the aims sought to be achieved and even possibly the location or premises used.
While some projects could have certain repetitive processes or elements, what differentiates them from operational processes, is the unique output envisaged by the project.
Projects and Operations are also differentiable based on the objectives they seek to achieve. Operations are aimed at continuing the smooth and regular running of an organization: for instance the day to day production of goods or services or the management of accounts and maintenance of financial records. These are the nuts and bolts of any organization.
From time to time, the business or organization could be faced with certain specific challenges such as a new market demand, an expansion objective or other business /strategic goal. The existing processes and resources of the company may not be adequate to cater to these additional requirements. Hence there is a new imperative to create a project that is specifically designed to achieve the unique challenges /objectives.
Projects would typically have specific human resource and budgetary allocations and may be assigned time sensitive deadlines. Here as well, projects would differ from the regular operations of a business.
Areas where projects and operations converge
Projects may also be aimed at enhancing the operational processes of an organization so that these enhancements could then be incorporated into regular operations. Here the two processes converge. Projects aimed at cutting operational costs, streamlining production practices, or improving marketing initiatives and their outcomes are eventually incorporated into operations. In this way, projects and operations have their points of difference as well as convergence