Project vs. Operations: Concept, Examples

Editorial Team

Project vs. Operations

In the business world, every organization has two categories of work. These are projects which may either be short-term or long-term and the organization’s day-to-day activities.  Both are fundamentally important when it comes to guaranteeing the success of your business.

Understanding the difference between projects and operations will help you plan for the business’ budget and the daily activities to be conducted in the organization, and also ensure that both the project and operations managers are on the same page on what success should look like. This includes the deliverables.

To shed more light into this, we will look at the key differences between operations and projects while comparing the two concepts. We shall also look at a few examples to get a better understanding of the two and what role both projects and operations play in the success of a business.


Projects are temporary activities of an organization, which may be short-term or long-term. It is the organization/ business that initiates a project, and the reasons normally differ for each project. For instance, an organization may start a project to overhaul their product to meet new client demands, gain a new market or remain relevant in the competitive market.

For a business organization to successfully conduct projects, it needs to expend the resources of the organization over time which calls for a budget that can sustain the entire life of a project. This budget must be inclusive of the labor, tools, equipment needed, raw materials, and any other input required for the project’s smooth running. It would also be best to plan ahead and account for unforeseen circumstances and emergencies in the budget.

Special personnel are also needed for the successful undertaking of given projects. It also requires the input of a project manager and a project team for the task accomplishment. The role of the project manager and the team comes to an end upon the completion of the project, which means that they hold no definite position in the organization, at least not permanent ones.

A project is bound by aspects such as time, budget, and scope. However, the time a project takes and the budget allocation are always difficult to estimate because it is not part of routine operations. In addition, since there are many unforeseen circumstances to consider, the project manager also needs not to be specialized. This will allow him/her to tackle anything thrown their way with ease. It would be best if you also kept in mind that the business/organizational structure determines a project’s nature.


As mentioned earlier, operations are the day-to-day activities of the organization.  These are activities that are repetitive to the business. They help in attaining the long-term goals of the business through repetitive output.

Unlike projects, operations require permanent employees who have a specialized area of expertise. The operations managers and employees have specific assigned tasks that they undertake over and over. Operational management aims to cut costs of the business in the long run, improve efficiency and effectiveness while staying afloat and relevant in the competitive market.

When it comes to budgeting for operations, the allocation is fixed, and so are the events. The day-to-day activities of operations are what are used to come up with the budget. Operations are expected to make a profit for the business for it to continue running smoothly.

Other Key Differences


Projects have a shorter life span. This is because they are temporary and are expected to end within a scheduled time. On the other hand, operations are long-term and last for as long as the business organization exists.

Risks involved

Since operations are the repetitive tasks that the team handles on a daily basis, there are little to no risks involved at all. Projects, however, involve a lot of risk-taking and risk management because they involve exploring new territories and stretching boundaries.

Nature of the work

Project work is unique and will differ from the next project. The deliverables for every project are also different and unique.  Operations are not unique since they are of a repetitive nature.


Projects heavily rely on performance. They are performance intensive. You have to perform well and within the set timeframe to meet the objectives of the business. On the other hand, operations tend to rely on efficiency more than on performance. This is because of the long-term nature, which means to no pressure to deliver quickly. Operations allow you to take your time with the work and deliver effectively in the long-run.

Examples of Projects

  • Coming up with a new product
  • Construction of a new building or road
  • Renovation of a building
  • Advertisement
  • Film making
  • Organizing for a training or meeting
  • Acquiring new equipment

Examples of Operations

  • IT maintenance and developers
  • Manufacturing
  • Finance
  • Administration work
  • Customer service and relationship management
  • Supply
  • Distributions
  • Procurement


Since operations and projects differ, they both play a critical role in any business enterprise’s success. Projects are temporary to an organization, and a project team is hired to undertake the project being led by the project manager. On the other hand, operations are long-term, and the employees who undertake the daily tasks are permanent to the organization. The person who oversees the operations is the operations manager.

Projects are not repetitive in nature, making them unique because it could be something such as coming up with a new product. On the other hand, operations are repetitive since they involve daily activities undertaken by the employees and could be tasks such as manufacturing, supply, and distribution of the products. Due to the nature of projects which involve conducting unique activities, high risks are involved. With operations, risks are very minimal since the tasks are recurrent.

I hope that this article has been insightful and helped you grasp the differences between operations and projects. Understanding this is crucial in making plans for the business, especially financial ones. This is because operations will limit you to a fixed budget, while projects require a bit of flexibility due to unforeseen circumstances.