Operations and Supply Chain vs Project Management

Operations and Supply Chain vs Project Management

Have you ever marveled at the speed and accuracy with which your Amazon order arrives at your doorstep? Of course you have! Who hasn’t?

And, perhaps more impressive is how Amazon knew you spontaneously needed a 14” cutting board - thus have the item in stock.


Ashley McDonough, author of Operations and Supply Chain Management Essentials, tells us that “the Supply Chain involves the activities within the company that bring products and services to life. It includes the flow of goods, both in the form of raw materials and finished products, how those goods are stored, and how they reach customers.” Everything around us, from the food in our refrigerators to household items to the cars we drive is part of a thoughtful, intentional system.


The interplay between Supply Chain and Operations Management is important to understand.


In short, Supply Chain Management (SCM) involves external activities from the planning and management of sourcing and procurement, conversion, and logistics management activities to the coordination with suppliers and third party service providers.


Operations are about internal processes, e.g. that ensure quality.


What about project management? How, if at all, is this related to Operations and SCM? For starters, the Project Management Institute (PMI®) defines a project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.” Process improvement and continuous production of a good or service is neither temporary nor unique. However, this does not mean project management is unrelated to Operations and Supply Chain Management.


Let’s take a step back for a moment to think about what happens upstream. Business strategy -   the North Star for the organization illustrates where it’s going. When the business strategy is set, projects are initiated that align with this strategy.


All three: Operations, Supply Chain, and Project Management are concerned with bringing value. That goes for the organization and to customers.


Kalpesh Ashar, author of Project Management Essentials articulates the fundamentals that underpin project management. An important point Ashar makes is that one of the reasons for starting a project is market and customer demand. This is also the case with Supply Chain. Successful organizations listen to their customers and react accordingly. This is one of the many ways Operations, SCM, and Project Management are connected.


It should be noted that managing projects shouldn’t be a rigid endeavor. Yes, there are distinct phases, i.e. Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing, but the methodology the Project Manager chooses will vary depending on the organizational culture and resources, and the project itself. For example, The PMBOK Standard published by the Project Management Institute refers to an "adaptive" type of development lifecycle also called "agile" or "change-driven" with regard to the product development lifecycle of a project (an element of the project lifecycle). Agile implies iterative, which is not dissimilar from how managers approach continuous improvement efforts. There is a defined need, work is done, assessed along the way, and continued or course corrected along the life cycle.


A key difference that you’ve likely discerned from the definitions above is that projects are one-time and unique. They aim to deliver on a defined scope and, once completed, the baton is handed to an operations team, if necessary. Operational management improves existing processes or procedures, thus this discipline is not concerned about one-time or unique endeavors but repeatable activities. Additionally, project management is anchored by a set of stages -  Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. These stages are designed to advance the project toward success. Operations and Supply Chain Management are cut from the same cloth as project management - with managers in these positions necessitating clarity, moving an initiative forward, and driving results that deliver value. OSCM’s processes, though distinct, are concerned with following the stages that take a company through the full lifecycle of strategy, procurement, receiving of the goods, and efficient processes.


These books mentioned in this article are part of Vibrant Publisher’s Self-Learning Management Series. The upcoming book Stakeholder Engagement Essentials You Always Wanted To Know is also a part of this series.


The Self-Learning Management Series intends to give a jump start to working professionals, whose job roles demand to have the knowledge imparted in a B-school but who haven’t got a chance to visit one. This series is designed to illuminate aspects of management, finance, organization development, consumer behavior, human resources, marketing and business.


Each book includes fundamentals, important concepts, standard principles and practical ways of application of the subject matter.


About the author - Michelle Bartonico is an experienced, solution-driven marketer and project manager with more than a decade of experience in higher education and marketing agencies serving clients in a breadth of industry verticals from healthcare to manufacturing. She is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), MSI Change Management Specialist, Six Sigma Yellow Belt, and has completed the Google Project Management Career Certificate program. She is the author of Stakeholder Engagement Essentials You Always Wanted To Know.