• UAE Editorial

Project Vs Operation

By Rizwan Amirjohn ME, PMP & Jaffer A Rabeek

The world is rapidly advancing in terms of technology and innovation, Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, Robotics Process Automation, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Edge & Quantum computing, to name a few but how far can an individual or an entity succeed when embracing these changes to their system whilst leaving behind the knowledge of distinguishing project and operation work?

The aspirants who applied for Project Management (PMP) exams were randomly checked for their experience through audits and one of the prime reasons for failure was due to the inability to differentiating between ‘Project’ and ‘Operation’. They fail to rightly categorize operation and project experience. The sad reality is those aspirants are in fact, experienced candidates.

Non-compliance to the exam audit can be reviewed for gaps and eventually get through by continual improvements but the simple-minded ignorance of not knowing whether the work being performed is project or operations has the potential to cause psychological, social, and financial distress to the stakeholders and the damage is often irreparable.

Both project and operation are required for organization success and they have many similarities like planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, and resource limitation but their core objectives and handling methodologies are different.

Project means to deliver a ‘unique’ product, service, or result within a specific time frame and it is temporary. Constructing a bridge (product), developing a vaccine (result), setting up a sales office in the new territory (service) are examples for projects. On the other hand, Operation directs and controls the process that produces firm products and delivers its service to customers. It is repetitive, ongoing, and permanent. Manufacturing cars, Call centers to handle customer complaints are examples of operation works.

Project work is to achieve and to close when the objectives are met whereas operation work is ongoing and helps the organization to sustain for the long run. Operations work does not come to end when its objectives are met but follows a new direction to support the organization’s strategic plan.

Let's picture a scene, a journalist collecting information, researching the facts, going to an incident site, collecting evidence, interviewing people, and finally writing an article and publishing it. Is this a project or an operation work? Every new piece of news is unique, meaning the result she produced didn’t exist before and she did it at a specific time. Do you call this project work? Or can you can go to defend this as Operations as it is her day-to-day recurring task and also doesn’t require any fund or approval from her sponsor.

The World Bank finance and granted approximately USD 1.5 trillion for 19,000 projects for over 180 countries in the last few decades and they are supporting education, infrastructure, health, agriculture, environmental sectors. Though the fund is allocated to projects, the grant is provided only to the entity accountable for delivering the projects or operations, as the project itself is not an entity nor accountable for the work.

Based on the work managed by an organization, it can be classified as a Projectized organization (if it deals with project work), a Functional organization (if it deals with operations works), or a Matrix organization (if deals with both project and operational work.)

There is an oft-surfacing myth that claims that project management is a subject reserved only for a project manager, however, in reality, it is a subject open to all leaders and aspirant leaders who are involved in projects either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, projects are an unavoidable aspect of one’s life cycle and it is a combination of arts and science to be learned in a structured way and not by trial and error method which causes wastage to the project fund, time, and effort. This is why many of the more mature organizations prefer to have project-certified talents in the operation teams so as to run the business successfully.

So, what kind of company organization do you manage or work in? Understanding this makes not only you get through PMP exam audits but makes you run your organization effectively.


Rizwan Amirjohn holds a Master’s Degree in Thermal Engineering after Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from PMI, USA, has 15 years of work experience with leading GCC based Multi-National Companies with expertise in Project Management, Change Management, Business Development, Strategy Conceiving, Human Capital Learning and development, and Compliance of Risk Management on both Project and Operational sides.

Jaffer A. Rabeek, an accomplished Graduate Mechanical Engineer, having 34 years of experience with diligent expertise performer and prowess over in managing gamut of UAE based Oil & Gas activities spanning across the Strategy devising, Planning, Executing operations, Business Development included of new business opportunities, Operations Management for TA / Shutdown and Operation's Supportive Blanket Contract's Management, Asset/Inventory Management and team building within ADNOC Groups.

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