Project Management vs Task Management: What Works Best for You

Project Management and Task Management are often used interchangeably by us. On the face of it, they do seem similar but there are quite a few differences that set them apart.

Also, it is important for us to understand, the key purposes that each of these solve.

In generic terms, you may say how it matters – both of them help us organize ourselves, our work and activities.

Agreed! To some extent yes. But that is not all they do.

If it were that simplistic, we wouldn’t have a whole industry spun off to help businesses manage projects and run distinct project management offices (PMO) within their organizations.

We will talk about that in a bit.

But before that, what is challenging or say confusing for some is to understand that fine line between project and task management.

Primarily because we are flooded with all sorts of software where some call themselves, task management software, collaboration tool, online workplace, work management software, project management tool, project collaboration tool and it goes on.

Quite a mouthful, huh J

Well, without getting lost in the marketing whirlwind let us stay focused on our core needs and what works best for us. More so, what to choose and when to switch between the two.

Task Management

Our good old Wikipedia says:

 “Task Management is the process of managing a task through its life cycle. It involves planning, testing, tracking, and reporting. Task management can help either individual achieve goals, or groups of individuals collaborate and share knowledge for the accomplishment of collective goals

Task Management

And I would like to call Task Management – “the act of listing, grouping and prioritizing my activities of the day/week or month and get them done in a timely manner.”

Now, the activities can be

  • Work related- (tasks from various projects, action items from meetings or activities of inflight or to be initiatives)
  • Planning an event (vacation, birthday, anniversary)
  • Daily personal chores etc.

Depending on your needs, you can plan and track the activities using a simple spreadsheet, note pad or opt for one of the task management and collaboration software available in the market.

But do note that, the chosen tool must provide the required attributes for meaningful task management.

Having classified what type of activities can be treated as tasks, let us understand some of the key attributes to get them done!

Task Attributes:

Irrespective of the activity you are to undertake, you must have absolute clarity of what is it that needs to be done, by whom, when and what is the expected outcome.

Roughly translated to

Task Title: A brief idea of what is to be done. If you could cover the expected outcome too then nothing like it!

Task Description: Try to explain the activity in detail w.r.t the impact, its significance and desired outcomes.

Task Assignee: Who will take up this activity? This is a must when there are more than one people involved in getting the job done. It helps maintain accountability and ownership. Very important for successful completion and delivery of the activity at hand.

Start and End Date: Even if you are The POTUS, you wouldn’t get anything done until you have a definite start and end date. Period! We, the Homo sapiens are the living gods of procrastination. And it is high time, we ripped this tag apart J

Task Priority: Yeah yeahyeah! We all know about it.

But when was the last time did you do holistic prioritization of your tasks in a true sense? Be truthful!

Prioritization is the key to successful completion of your tasks. Your team members or friends involved would never know what goes out of the list first and this may turn your perfect plan to be one that is highly erratic.

Do you really want that?

Task Type: This is a simple way of categorizing your tasks. One look and you know what does the task entails!

Task Labels: Another, layer of task classification when you are running complex activities which need that extra focus.

Task Reminders: Now who doesn’t love automated reminders? Having a system that sends you a ding at the right time is like “A stitch in time, saves nine”.

Files and Attachments: This is when things become too much fun or serious! It is always good to have records of activities associated with the tasks. Be it a requirements list, a checklist, a photograph, image, design etc. It becomes just so much easy to understand and get things done with files and documents. As they say – an image is worth a thousand words!

Now that you have a good understanding of the key task attributes, you are all set to better manage your tasks.

It is not about entering data or maintaining logs.

It is about excelling at what you do! To help you achieve more, over-reach your potential.

Task Management when done rightly, can streamline a highly chaotic day and make it a walk in the park. It is so. I am from the IT industry. Believe me when I say soJ

Benefits of Task Management

I can go on and on, but to keep things simple, the benefits that we at Orangescrum have experienced are:

  • Better Customer engagement and satisfaction
  • Collaboration that enabled meaningful discussions and impactful decisions
  • Optimum work load management for our teams
  • Higher employee motivation and productivity
  • Ability to do more, with less – effort, time and resources when needed

Project Management

Project-Management

The leading authority on Project Management Institute (PMI) explains a project as:

A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.

And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal. So a project team often includes people who don’t usually work together – sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies.

Project Management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.

Okay, do not get bogged down by the definition.

Rather, PMI has made things simple for us!

Project Management ensures you are efficient, effective and successful in what you have undertaken.

So, which undertakings do you really call as a project?

The answer lies in the definition of a projectJ

Okay, no more games, here is a quick list for added clarity

  • Building a new software
  • Constructing a new house, a dam or a shopping mall
  • Renewing the entire IT infrastructure of your company
  • A product launch
  • Expansion of your products or services into new geographies

Basically, any activity with a defined start and end date meant to achieve an overarching business goal.

Updating anti-virus on your PC every year doesn’t count! Neither does any ongoing regular activity.

e.g. you launched a new product. Post go-live it is handed over to the operations teams to manage it on a daily basis. Those activities will not be counted as a project.

We often end up calling year-long regular maintenance activities as projects which is not right.

Projects are initiatives run to deliver strategic and or financial benefits to the sponsor (company, business).

When you undertake a project, a lot of other factors need to be taken into account. For starters

  • Funding and budget
  • Resources (people, process, technology)
  • Project scope, requirements, goals
  • Managing stakeholder expectations
  • Agreed quality and timelines
  • Geography, government or local body regulations

Having said that, let us now understand some of the crucial project attributes.

Project Attributes

Scope

This is one of the key Critical Success Factors (CSF) for any project.

We live in an ever changing world and what you agreed to do, what you are requested to do and what you end up delivering change at lightning speed.

It is important, that you have consensus and written agreement from all stakeholders on the project scope. Because the moment you allow scope creep, you open the floodgates to failure.

In simple terms, you lose control of the project and everyone starts taking a swing at will.

This must be prevented and if push comes to shove, stopped at all costs.

Communication Plan

Managing communication is very important when running projects. Make a robust plan of what to communicate, when and how and share it with the entire project team.

Provide the team with a central platform that enables and records all project communication with timestamps for audit trail and quicker issue resolution.

Ensure, all relevant information is available readily as and when needed to the right audience.

Work Breakdown Structure

A detailed execution plan is very important in getting the project delivered in time. Work breakdown structure (WBS) is a magnified version of your simple task management as illustrated above.

Have well-defined

  • Task grouping and milestones
  • Task, subtasks
  • Task linking and dependencies

And ensure absolute clarity and transparency of your execution.

Time and Resource Management

Having real time visibility to your available resources and optimum allocation helps keep the project on track.

In addition, monitoring and tracking the task progress and effort spent is crucial to the viability and profitability of the project.

Deploy easy to use and effortless time tracking tools for your project team. The added advantage is the real time exportable reports and metrics to analyse and take preventive measures when needed.

Risk Identification and Prevention

Risks are an inseparable part of projects. And for this very reason, it is always advisable to account for contingency funds, time buffers and adequate resource planning in your project plans.

Identification and prioritization of risks goes a long way in risk prevention. Having a robust project management software that tracks all project information, progress, efforts, expenses, issues etc. keeps you battle ready should an emergency occur.

Final Thoughts

Task management works better for simplistic activities be it solo or with a team. Project management on the other hand takes a little more in terms of planning and execution.

If you may, it is a magnified version of your task management.

But both of them are serious business and when done right work wonders for you and your business.

The key thing to note is, having the right project management and collaboration tool in place to help you with both!

You may opt for an online task management tool or an on premise enterprise solution to cater to your business needs.

Orangescrum project and task collaboration tool helps you run large complex projects as well as your to-do lists all at once in a highly collaborative environment.

Whether you are an established enterprise, just starting up or somewhere in between – Orangescrum is for you!

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