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Project Managers and Process Managers - Many Similarities But Different Focus

Can a Project Manager provide value to a BPM project?

Project Manager is a common term in business these days.  On the simplest level, a Project Manager can be an individual in charge of a plan that was developed on a ‘cocktail napkin’ or simple spreadsheet.  For a more complex project, the Project Manager can be an employee in the Project (or Program) Management Office, be certified in Project Management by passing the rigorous PMI test, create sophisticated work breakdown schedules using software and manage enterprise projects from beginning to end for the organization.  The kind of Project Manager I am talking about has responsibilities like the second type above, but may not always work on enterprise projects; instead he might work on medium or large projects as well.  

According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) a project is a “temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”  And Project Management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.”   The PMBOK then goes on to say that there are 42 logically grouped activities that the Project Manager does in 5 Process Groups.

  • Initiating
  • Planning
  • Executing
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Closing

All of these Process Groups are relevant to BPI process improvement projects.  Initiating would correlate with the Getting Started phase; Planning would include some aspects of the Getting Started Phase and some in the Process Discovery and Process Analysis phase; Executing and Monitoring and Controlling would align with Process Discovery through Process Design/Optimization.  Here a “project” closes with implementation, but a process never closes; instead it continues as part of the ongoing operation and needs monitoring.  There is no element of Project Management for ongoing monitoring, since a project by its definition is temporary.

There are so many activities in Project Management that are similar to the activities of a BPM project.  These are highlighted in the table below.

The point is:  A business process improvement project is a PROJECT that models, analyzes, and improves a business process. But then the process continues once the improvements are recommended and implemented while the project ends. 

What role can a certified Project Manager best play in a BPI project? I think the best role for a Project Manager would be the Team Facilitator.  Most Project Managers have strong group skills and could facilitate a team well, although they would have to learn the skills and techniques of the BPM Methodology.  

It might seem that a Project Manager could be a good Project Lead for a BPI Project, as many of the  skills are the same, but the Project Lead in a BPI project has some different critical additional roles.  The Project Lead should be the chief subject matter expert for the process, the leader of the BPI team, accountable to reach the Process Owner’s goals, and be responsible for making  the new process operational in the workplace.  The Project Manager from the PMO would not have the SME expertise, would not work in the process, and would not be responsible for implementing the changes in the workplace.  I do not recommend the certified Project Manager replace the Project Lead; but, if the project is large, I recommend the team use both.  That way the certified Project Manager can focus on managing the project aspects of the work, and the SME Project Lead can focus on modeling, analyzing, and improving the process. 

A Project Manager could also play other BPM team roles. He could be the documenter, data person, or Maverick on the team as well.   But the mostly likely role would be Team Facilitator or co-Project Manager with the Project Lead. 

The Project Manager has the project skills needed for the BPI project, but not the content expertise.  It is these skills where he has the most to offer to the BPI project.

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7 comments to Project Managers and Process Managers – Many Similarities But Different Focus

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  • Ankur T

    I really enjoyed the format of this blog. It clearly explains the similarities and differences in skills and responsibilities of Project Manager and Process Manager. As a Business systems Analyst, I am responsible for managing the projects as well. This information has provided me deep insight into what I need to learn to be able to work as Process Manager. Thank you for sharing this.

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