Project Management vs Task Management

I often hear people talking about the need for project management when what they are really talking about is task management. So what’s the difference between the two?

Project management is an organized process used to satisfy a certain scope or set of goals and objectives from start to finish. It involves assigning tasks, monitoring progress and assessing risk to evaluate the outcome and make necessary changes to keep the project on track, usually within a specific timeframe and budget. Project management can involve multiple teams and stakeholders and can take months to years to complete.

An example of a large project might be construction of a hospital or integrating federal or state mandates into software at a healthcare company.   A project example in the accounting world would be upgrading to a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.

Projects usually require extensive planning and coordination between multiple stakeholders or teams. Projects consist of deliverables and key milestones and often have to maneuver or pivot to allow for change management. Typically there is a critical path that affects the ability of the project to meet the stated end date.

There are different types of project management also. Today’s project managers are probably skilled in both Agile project management and Waterfall project management. Agile project management is iterative and adaptive and follows a cyclical approach while waterfall is linear and doesn't allow for revisiting previous steps and phases without change management intervention. Agile is best for projects that need more flexibility whereas waterfall tends to work best for projects with clearer end goals. Within the Agile methodology, there are also different types of project management such as Kanban or Scrum.

There are a multitude of software products that can help with both project management and task management. Microsoft Project is probably the most well-known and used tool for large project management projects following the waterfall method. The use of Gantt charts embedded in Microsoft Project help visualize the process. Large projects, such as construction management tend to rely on this type of tool due to the large number of dependencies among the tasks and the need to carefully monitor critical path and due dates.

Jira is often used for large agile projects. Large projects, such as software development tend to rely on this type of tool due to flexibility and the ability to re-focus when needed.

Project management is guided by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) which is a collection of processes, guidelines and training for best practices and guides project managers in management, human resources, and quality.

Task management, on the other hand, can be seen as a to-do list. Projects are often made up of groups of tasks that are needed to accomplish the overall goal. Tasks are smaller and can sometimes be done by as few as 1 person. Tasks can be re-occurring and can help to organize your daily work for better efficiency. The owner of a task is usually not concerned about budget aspects but more with prioritizing, tracking progress and completion. A group of tasks that take several people to accomplish may also be considered a workflow process.

Tools like Trello,, and Slack are useful for task management or they can be used for smaller projects.

Tasks often depend on workflow management and can be dependent on each other. For example, in the accounting world, you may not be able to pay an invoice unless approved by management or you cannot complete your balance sheet without first making sure your accounts are up-to-date.

Task management can help teams improve their decision-making, communication, efficiency and follow-thru and well-managed projects give a company the upper hand when it comes to completion of needed work while staying on time and within budget.

If your company needs assistance with project management or task management tool evaluations and set up, contact me at Our Operations, Technology & Strategy team can help you with all your project needs, whether it's a Business Systems Strategy like upgrading your financial system or achieving operational excellence, Brixey & Meyer can partner with you to achieve success!

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