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The Difference Between a Project and Operational Work
Many aspiring project managers are faced with the question, is this a project? Or is this operational work? It can be difficult to distinguish the two because both types of work are performed by organizations. Both types of work will involve team members, and will be limited by resource and other constraints. Both types of work will be planned, monitored, and controlled. And both types of work will be performed to achieve the goals of the organization.
What makes the work project work and not organizational work?
For the most part, it is the fact that project work produces a unique product and service and comes to an end at some point. Operational work will produce the same thing again and again. Project work will produce something different than the organization has produced before. For example: Setting up a manufacturing area or plant would be a project. The manufacturing that happens after the plant is set up and operational will be operational work. Operational work will often support project work, or will continue where the project left off, so there is often a lot of interaction between the project and the operational teams. Resources may be different from the project team to the operational team or may be shared by both. In fine, if the work has a definite beginning and end, and produces a unique product or service, it is a project. If the work has a continuing element about it, and it produces many of the same things again and again, it is operational work. Usually the design and development of a new product is a project, but the continued production of the product would fall to operations. Hopefully this definition and discussion will be helpful to you on your projects and on the CAPM or PMP exam.