Project vs Process: Definitions, Differences, & Examples

Updated on: 30 November 2023 | 7 min read
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“Project” and “process” are two distinct concepts often used in the context of work, management, and various industries. Organizations often use both projects and processes to manage their work effectively. Projects may involve creating or improving processes, and processes may be used to carry out the work involved in projects.

This article explains the differences between a process and project with examples of both scenarios. Additionally, we have provided useful templates to help you streamline your projects and processes.

What is a Project

A project is a temporary and unique endeavor with a specific goal or objective, carried out to create a product, service, or result. It is characterized by a defined beginning and end, a set of resources, and a scope that determines what needs to be accomplished. Often, projects are started to solve a problem, take advantage of an opportunity, or meet a challenge.

Typically a project goes through 5 stages in its life cycle.

  • Project initiation: Define project goals, develop a business case, define the project on a broad level, and identify project stakeholders.
  • Project planning: Define project scope, create a project plan, set a budget baseline, and define roles and responsibilities.
  • Project execution: Allocate and manage project resources, develop the product or process, and address issues as they rise.
  • Project monitoring: Track effort and cost, monitor project progress, ensure adherence to the project plan and eliminate bottlenecks.
  • Project closure: Handover deliverables, review project deliverables, get project results approved, and document lessons learned.

Project Management Lifecycle

Example of a Project

Some prime examples of projects include the development of software or product, a new marketing campaign, the construction of a building, or a relief program after a natural disaster.

Following are useful project management templates that will help you get a head start on your project.

Project Plan Template

The project plan is a comprehensive document that outlines how the project is executed, monitored, and controlled. It highlights vital project information such as deadlines, assignments, and key milestones and is usually represented in the form of a Gantt chart.

Project Plan Template for Project vs Process
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Project Plan Template

Project Charter

The project charter is a short document that explains what a project entails. It describes what the project goals are, who is involved and their responsibilities, and the stakeholders, and defines the authority of the project manager.

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Project Communications Plan

A project communication plan is a guideline of what, when, and how key project information will be shared at key intervals with invested stakeholders.

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Project Timeline

A project timeline outlines key phases and tasks from initiation to closure, and helps to facilitate planning, tracking, and managing project progress.

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What is a Process

Any organization, regardless of its size, has business processes. A process is a series of interrelated and repeatable activities or steps that are designed to achieve a particular outcome or produce a specific product or service. Processes are fundamental to how organizations operate and carry out their work efficiently. They involve a sequence of actions that transform inputs into outputs, with the goal of achieving consistency, quality, and efficiency.

Typical phases of a process include:

  • Initiation: Define the purpose and objectives of the process, identify stakeholders, and set initial scope.
  • Planning: Create a detailed plan, allocate resources, and establish monitoring metrics.
  • Execution: Implement the planned activities, transforming inputs into desired outputs.
  • Monitoring and controlling: Regularly track progress, compare actual vs. planned performance, and implement controls.
  • Evaluation: Assess effectiveness and efficiency, gather stakeholder feedback, and identify areas for improvement.
  • Optimization: Make adjustments based on evaluation, seek continuous improvement, and implement changes.
  • Closure: Conclude the process when objectives are met, archive documentation, and communicate completion to stakeholders.

Examples of Processes

Following are some examples of process maps, which are used to visualize processes within an organization.

Employee offboarding process

The following swimlane flowchart depicts the process of offboarding employees. It highlights the steps involved and the responsible parties for carrying them out.

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Customer support process

This process map outlines how to handle customer requests. Each swim lane represents the individuals and teams involved in the process and their actions.

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Support Process Swimlane Flowchart

Employee recruitment process

The following flowchart visualizes the steps in the process of onboarding new employees starting from identifying hiring needs.

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Project vs Process

Listed below are differences between process management vs project management for easier analysis.

NatureA temporary and unique endeavor with a specific goal.Ongoing and repeatable series of activities designed for routine operations.
UniquenessEach project is typically unique, with specific goals, outcomes, and characteristics.Processes are designed to be repeatable, producing similar results each time.
DurationHas a defined beginning and end.Continuous and ongoing; no specific end point.
GoalsInitiated to achieve specific objectives or create a unique deliverable.Aimed at achieving operational efficiency, consistency, and quality in routine operations.
ResourcesRequires the allocation of resources, including human, time, and often financial investments.Utilizes resources routinely in the day-to-day functioning of an organization.
PlanningInvolves detailed planning, organization, and coordination of resources to meet project goals within specified constraints.Emphasizes efficiency and improvement, with planning focused on optimizing routine activities.
Risk and UncertaintyInherent uncertainties and risks are managed throughout the project life cycle.Emphasis on control mechanisms to ensure consistency and quality, with a focus on minimizing variability.

Benefits of Projects vs Processes

Projects bring innovation and change, while processes focus on maintaining operational efficiency and consistency, with both contributing to the overall success of an organization.

Benefits of Projects

  • Innovation and change: Projects are catalysts for innovation and change, allowing organizations to introduce new ideas, products, or services.

  • Goal achievement: Projects provide a structured approach to achieving specific objectives within a defined timeline.

  • Resource allocation: Resources are allocated for a temporary period, allowing efficient use and focused efforts.

  • Flexibility: Projects offer flexibility to adapt to changing requirements and circumstances.

  • Learning opportunities: Each project presents learning opportunities, contributing to organizational knowledge and expertise.

  • Risk management: Projects emphasize identifying and managing risks to ensure successful outcomes.

Benefits of Processes

  • Operational efficiency: Processes ensure consistent and efficient day-to-day operations within an organization.

  • Resource optimization: Resources are utilized continuously, contributing to ongoing productivity and efficiency.

  • Consistency: Processes lead to consistent and standardized outputs, reducing variability in operations.

  • Quality control: Emphasis on control mechanisms ensures that processes adhere to quality standards.

  • Continuous improvement: Processes encourage a culture of continuous improvement, refining operations over time.

  • Documentation: Standard operating procedures and guidelines provide a reference for consistent execution.

Creately for Projects vs Process Management

Creately is an intelligent visual platform that enables visual collaboration, knowledge management, project execution and business process management. With real-time collaboration and advanced data integration capabilities, it also helps connect cross-functional teams across your entire organization.

Creately’s easy visual workflows and powerful data integrations helps deliver a single reference point for everything during a project lifecycle. You can easily organize and manage tasks, resources, assets, and workflows in an easy, visual platform with advanced built-in visual project management tools.

On the other hand, its whiteboard-like ease of use and advanced process modeling and data capture capabilities help streamline modeling, analyzing, and optimizing business processes collaboratively with stakeholders and clients.

In conclusion, knowing the difference between project vs process is important for running organizations well. Projects are like engines for new ideas and goals, bringing change and innovation. Processes, on the other hand, keep things running smoothly every day, making sure everything is consistent and of high quality. Finding the right mix of projects for growth and efficient processes for daily tasks is crucial for a successful organization. Balancing both aspects helps organizations adapt to change while maintaining stability in their day-to-day operations.

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

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Amanda Athuraliya Communications Specialist

Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Creately, online diagramming and collaboration tool. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

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