PMP Basics: Project vs Operation

Project vs Operation for PMP Exam

One of the most fundamental concept for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam is the definition of a “Project” as the knowledge around the PMP® Exam is built upon the correct definition of projects. Yet, in our daily life, “Project” and “Operation” is often confused.

This article will help Aspirants to differentiate between Project vs Operation for the exam.

Project vs Operation

In the PMBOK® Guide, “Project” and “Operation” are defined differently:

  • Project: A project is a temporary endeavour that is taken to create a unique deliverable (namely: product, service or result).
    • A project must be unique and non-recurring, i.e. every project is different.
    • Every project has a definite begin and end date.
    • The ultimate aim of projects are to achieve/align with the strategic objectives of the organization, e.g. improve efficiency, introduce new products, enhance current products, etc.
    • The end products for a project can be a new product, improved products, enhanced operation procedures, etc.
    • Examples: develop a new PMP® Exam reference book, create a new PMP® online training course, prepare for the PMP® Exam
  • Operation: Operations are routine ongoing activities/tasks for the organization.
    • Operations must adhere to pre-defined steps/procedures.
    • Operations carry on indefinitely until a change is introduced.
    • All normal business functions of the organization are considered operations.
    • Operations are necessary to sustain the business.
    • Examples: printing of PMP® Exam books, delivering online PMP® Exam training to Aspirants, accounting/staffing/sales management

On the other hand, “Project” and “Operation” do carry some similarities:

  • They both have to take limited resources into accounts.
  • Both projects and operations are performed by people/human resources.
  • Both involve execution and control (e.g. quality control).

Mock Exam Question

  1. Helena is tasked with the responsibility to manage the process of producing cars. She has to overlook the availability of raw materials, manufactured components and labour. She has to . Also she has to ensure the cars produced meet the quality standards specified by the company. What is Helena working on?
    1. Project
    2. Operation
    3. Management
    4. Profolio
    Solution: B
    This is considered as an operation as Helena needs to adhere to pre-defined steps and standards in the production of the cars (an ongoing and repetitive process). There are no changes to be introduced through the process.

Summary: Project vs Operation

For every Aspirants, understanding the differences between “Project” and “Operation” is just like learning ABC:

  • Project: temporary, unique, aligned with strategic objectives, with a defined outcome (product, service or result)
  • Operation: ongoing, repetitive, vital to sustaining the business

Hope this article can illustrate the differences between Project vs Operation well.

recommended PMP resourcesAdditional FREE PMP® resources: 47+ Commonly Confused Term Pairs with detailed explanations. If you found this article useful, you may wish to reference other Commonly Confused Term articles.

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Edward Chung

Edward Chung aspires to become a full-stack web developer and project manager. In the quest to become a more competent professional, Edward studied for and passed the PMP Certification, ITIL v3 Foundation Certification, PMI-ACP Certification and Zend PHP Certification. Edward shares his certification experience and resources here in the hope of helping others who are pursuing these certification exams to achieve exam success.

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