Project management is a term that gets thrown around a lot. It seems that any organized effort that includes tasks with due dates is deemed to be a project. But what if it isn’t? Misidentifying it could set your project or initiative back at the very outset.
Ask yourself: What are the main tasks for my next project? If you answer with responses such as, do a site visit, order hardware, or get sign-off, ask yourself another question. Is what I am describing a project actually? Are you sure that it is not, in fact, a process that you are describing that just happens to have steps with due dates associated with them? Just because a particular task requires accountability from an individual person, and has a due date, does not necessarily mean that it is a project task. It could just as easily be a step in a process.
Process versus Project
This is important because the tools used to manage processes and projects are quite different in their approach.
- Processes show a general sense of time (left to right or top to bottom), but there is no visual indication of duration – all steps are the same size.
- Project tools are good at representing a project timeline, but poor at facilitating workflow.
Use Case #1: Equipment installation
A fast food company wants to install a new point-‐of-‐sale system in each of its 6,000 stores. Each install requires many steps that need to be performed in sequence by many different participants. Each install has a schedule.
Use Case #2: Clinical research trail
A clinical research organization needs well defined, repeatable workflows for its drug testing trials across the globe. The workflows make up a project with a schedule.
You are responsible for these two endeavors. What tool do you use: project management or process management? Apparently, you need elements of both. Or, do you ignore the process aspect, and focus only on the project. Or, do you use two different tools, one to design the process and the other to manage the project, and try to keep them in sync.
A significant portion of everyday activities in many industries requires a mixture of process and project functionality. Think of this as process-driven project management, where the process is designed, and then managed a project. This creates many problems:
- Projects are driven by process, but the process is hidden
- A project requires a set of related activities, performed in a predefined sequence, to achieve a particular goal. All project plans are based on an implied process, defined by predecessors and successors. As shown in the following diagram, there are many kinds of projects/processes as well:
- Project managers like Gantt Charts because they are an excellent representation of a project’s timeline and dependencies. The problem with project management tools is that the process remains obscured because their approach is focused on a list of tasks to be done and the dates by which they need to be done.
- Process have a timeline, but the timeline can’t be managed
- A process is like a project, in that it is a series of steps with a beginning and end, designed to reach a business objective. The same process may be repeated multiple times, but even repetitive processes have a beginning and end, a unique timeline, and unique deliverable. For example, an employee onboarding process is repetitive, but there may be nuances in the way it is processed each time, and the actual deliverable at the end (the individual employee who is on-boarded) is unique.
- Business process management tools are focused on transactional, automated processes. This means they are unable to effectively address the estimated 80% of business processes that are unstructured and collaborative. In a process, there is no concept of time.
- They require two different skills sets
- A project manager does not have the same set of skills as a business process analyst, and vice versa. Having a project manager doing business analysis, or a business analyst doing project management, what could go wrong?
The solution: Process driven project management
When you go to the imaginary software tool supermarket, there is an aisle for project management software and an aisle for process management software. There is no aisle for process/project management software.
Apparently, many endeavors we think of as processes, like onboarding an employee or processing a customer bill from start to finish, can also be managed as projects. With process-driven project management, a process is first designed using an appropriate process design tool and then managed using a project management tool. The key is that the underlying data is the same just the views are different. Process-driven project management combines the core elements of process and project, as shown in the following diagram
The advantages of process – driven project management
Process-driven project management provides a single, comprehensive, unified platform for defining, visualizing, and driving the flow of production work through the organization.
- One tool implementation and support for both processes and projects.
- Same interface for users involved in processes and projects.
- Added dimension of time for processes.
- Added dimension of process management for projects.
- Responsibilities for process design and project management can be assumed by resources with the appropriate skill set.
- No importing and exporting between multiple tools, or duplication of data.
- No duplication of effort designing in one tool and managing in another.
- A single repository for all the organization’s processes and projects.
Introducing Work-Relay: Enterprise Business Process Management (BPM)
If your organization runs process‐driven projects, and you are managing them as projects, you are severely limiting your organization’s capabilities. Work-Relay is a tool that is capable of providing both project and process management will yield enormous dividends. Work-Relay is a business process management system that combines features and capabilities that are naturally associated with business process management platforms, with features and capabilities generally found in project management tools in one toolset.
Work-Relay can automate any kind of process or project in Salesforce.com. Work-Relay includes multiple, fully-functional workflow applications built on top of the Salesforce.com platform.
–> It allows you to design your Salesforce workflows and processes with a simple yet powerful tool designed for business users or administrators, not for developers.
As shown in the preceding screenshot, you can use a small set of building blocks to build processes of any level of complexity. Weave together self-contained processes as needed. Automatically generate or manually create complete end-to-end processes on-the-fly. With Work-Relay, you can take control of your processes and author complex workflows quickly, including automated straight-through processes, procedural or task-based processes, and dynamic or goal-driven processes – without writing a single line of code!
–> Optionally add a schedule to your process so you can track it as it executes over time, as shown in the following screenshot
Manage processes as projects by assigning durations, start/end dates, and milestones. The system will track revised and actual times, calculate the critical path, and provide a buffer-based early warning.
Work-Relay’s new WorkFast Business Process Templates provide an easy-to-use method for building a wide-range of process functionality that can be quickly customized and configured as complex process workflows. WorkFast Business Process Templates are available for all key business functional areas. Get started today with www.work-relay.com.
Note: – I am thankful to Work-Relay team for giving me a free license of their App to play with it.