Project Versus Process

What is a project and how does it differ from a process? A project has a defined beginning and end, such as the implementation of an application or the development of a training program. A process is an ongoing activity, such as support and maintenance of an application or the offering of an ongoing training program. A project is temporary. A process is continuous. A project needs to be managed to ensure it is completed on time and within budget, while meeting the defined need. A process needs to be managed to ensure compliance and to continuously improve as needed. Resources are assigned to a project for a defined time frame to complete specific activities. Resources work on processes as part of their ongoing work effort. Each project is unique, although some are similar enough that they can provide historical information to assist with initiation and planning of other projects (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 1 Project versus process.

Defined beginning and endOngoing activity
Managed to time, budget, and needManaged to compliance and continuous improvement
Resources assigned for specific time frameResources are ongoing
Table 2 What is a project? 
It is temporaryHas a defined start and finish
It is uniqueDevelops a new product or service
It is progressiveProceeds in steps or on a specific plan
It is elaboratedWorked out with care, coordination, and detail

The Triple Constraint

Triple constraint

Every project is constrained in some way by scope, cost, and time. These limitations are known as the triple constraint. These are often competing goals, and they need to be balanced by the project manager throughout the project life cycle. Scope is related to the work that needs to be done and what is expected by the customer at the end of the project. Cost is related to the budget or how much money will be required to complete the project. Time is related to the duration of project or the schedule.

The project manager should consider the triple constraint while planning for the project and analyze any modifications requested or required during all phases of the project. Any modification to the project will impact one or more of these three constraints, and will often require trade offs between them. If there is an increase in scope, either cost or time will be impacted. Either additional resources (cost) will be required to meet the deadline (time) or the schedule (time) will need to be extended if the team resources (cost) remain the same. A project manager needs to understand which aspect of the triple constraint is the most important and cannot be impacted, as well as which one can be modified as needed. The priorities of the triple constraint are usually defined by the sponsors during the initiation and planning phases.

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