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Project is a one time initiative with a well defined objective and definitive start and end dates. Projects are usually not repetitive.




Process is the sequence of tasks which are repetitively performed to ensure continuity in operations. A process have a definitive start date, but it does not have any end date. 


An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by R Rajesh on 14th February 2019.


Applause for all the respondents- Hari Shyam, Nikzad, R Rajesh, Kiran Kumar, Somrita Chatterjee


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.



Q. 135  Process and Project are terms used in the Business Improvement or Six Sigma world, while the term project is used in the Project Management realm. What are the key differences in a Project and a Process? Can the terms be used interchangeably? Give examples to support your answer.


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Let me start with my assumption of what it takes to qualify as a Project in Project Management realm , a Project and a Process in Business Improvement or Six Sigma world.


Project in Project Management Realm: In a one-liner , we can say a project will have an objective with a definite start date and a definite end date.


Eg:1 Converting a meter-gauge rail(track) to a broad-gauge rail can be a project, for Railway engineers.
Eg:2 Creating a software product can be a project, for an IT team.
Eg:3 Constructing a shopping mall could be a project, for a builder


Project in Business Improvement of Six Sigma context: A project will have a goal with a definite start and end dates. That will be accompanied by a strong business case explaining an explicit reason as why this project is needed in the first place and it will highlight the end dates for the various phases that a project might have.   


Process: In generic terms , we can say that it is a set of instructions/sequence of steps to achieve a particular activity/complete an event. Essentially , every process would have certain parameters which act upon as inputs and then there could be a set of actions or a sequence flow which would be necessary so that there is a tangible outcome which serves our need. That outcome becomes the output which will/can be consumed by other actors(could be another process /events/users/activities..)

Eg:1 Setting up Continuous Integration(CI) is a key process as part of Continuous Delivery and Deployment(for delivering your IT delivery rapidly).

CI includes multiple steps :
1. Check-out the latest code from the Code Repository (say GIT) and put that into local workspace(Developer's workstation).
2. Do your code changes on the local machine and unit test it thoroughly
3. Post a peer review (and after fixing comments, if any - unit test it again)
4. If everything ok, get the latest code from Code Repository,
5. If no difference found in the version of the code, then push the code to the code repository with proper comments  
5. Automatically Build should be triggered (When a change is pushed).
6. If build succeeds, then ensure that your change is successfully working in the Integration box.

Now as we see multiple steps are there. The sequence is important to get a successful testing of your functionality which is the outcome from this process.
Eg:2 Code Review is a process - Steps involved: 1. Review the code. 2. Check if the code adheres to coding standards and guidelines. 3. Whererever the stds/guideline not followed, provide proper feedback comments. 4. Ensure the developer fixes the comments.5.Ensure functional misses are not there. 6.Ensure same mistakes are not repeated. 7. Ensure all comments are fixed.  


Now let us first compare and contrast a project in Project Management(PM) realm and a project in Business Improvement(BI)/Six Sigma  world.



We have compared and contrasted project in PM realm and in BI/Six Sigma realm. Let us now contrast a project and a Process in BI/Six Sigma context.





Let me explain these difference with an example. Imagine an improvement project. An IT team's delivery quality is poor. They are getting multiple escalations and they are unable to meet their SLA of <5% defects in a critical application. This is happening for the past 6 months. Now team is doing an improvement project. It is trying to zero in the problem. It needs to fix the issue in 4 months time. Goal is to have <5% defects by 17th June 2019.
 Now it starts to check its flow from where it has to correct itself. It reviews the AS-IS process. It finds (after doing Value Add activity process) that it needs to improve upon Design Patterns(for Coding), Code Review, Automatate Unit and Functional Testing.  These are processes which have their own steps which need to be done so that quality of the deliverable meets the defined SLA as per the goal statement. Now without the processes, the project goal cannot be achieved. At the same time, the processes can be independently achieved but if not tagged to a project, the chance of systematically finding the deficiencies in a process or a need for a new process(if old process is too bad to be modified) would be missed out.


Conclusion: From the differences that we saw now, it is clear that process and project in a business improvement/six sigma world or different entities. Having said that there is always a bit of these two words conveniently interchanged especially in Business Process Outsourcing(BPO) industries. Many teams use process to represent what could be possibly called as a project. For instance, those teams might call HR Payroll system as a process, whereas an IT team might call that as a project. One reason it could be because of the fact that BPO bretherens could construe each of the steps in the system happening in a sequential flow.  But in general, by and large as the definition says and based on the differences that i articulated above, my conclusion is process and project are two different entities.

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                       Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R


A few based on my experiences....


There have been times when I interacted with an organization about identifying Six Sigma projects, and they had some confusion, with the term ‘Projects’. They have been mostly associated with the term ‘Project’ from a context of business contract. Most us who are experienced in Six Sigma terminologies understand how the term ‘project’ needs to be interpreted based on context. However, I have learned that depending upon the audience we may have to be careful in ensuring whether the interpretation of the term ‘project’ is made as intended. Should we call it specifically as ‘Business Project’ and ‘Six Sigma Project’?


On the other hand, the fundamental definition for ‘Project’ and the phases of project apply to both contexts quite well. The term project implies an undertaking to deliver an objective with a fixed start and end time.


Coming to definition of ‘Process’, the understanding appears to be more uniform and unambiguous. I haven’t seen much confusions between the usage of Project and Process…. Hope the below statement is an example outlining the meaning of ‘Project’ and ‘Process’.


“Most of the Six Sigma DMAIC ‘Projects’ aim to improve a ‘Process’ or set of ‘Processes”.


However, when we expect people to map the processes that they are involved in, many have some difficulty. In the Six Sigma world, we often use the SIPOC methodology to depict a high-level process. If we want to test ourselves about our own clarity with respect to a particular process, try building the SIPOC and see how well you are able to do it!

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There are multiple differences between projects and processes. Going by the description of PMI, "projects are one time endeavour" whereas, processes are repeated. Projects and processes both have a defined methodology, but each project is unique and different from another one.

The terms cannot be used interchangeably because of clear difference in the definitions.


Examples are:

Project: Setting up a new manufacturing facility or developing a new car model (product) or improving a process to reduce the cycle time/takt time.

Process: Series of defined steps involved in production of a car.

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Process is a series of repeatable steps done in a deliberate order. On the other hand, a project is a single temporary endeavor with multiple steps.

The timeline involved in a project is limited whereas in a process its ongoing with guided completion times.

Processes can be revised and improved for efficiencies in an ongoing manner. However, the project has a specified goal to be achieved which can be evolved.

Projects have their individual uniqueness, whereas process involves has continuous repeats.

Projects  drive change and Processes drive optimizations.

Projects involve collaborations whereas processes involve well defined actionable steps and follows guidelines.

Processes are optimized as an exercise to reduce cost, while projects attempt to create change at a lowest cost possible.

A pilot can be a project whereas a prototype cycle can be a process.

After a project it can be decided to repeat the project or not and in a process minor changes maybe required prior to running it again.

A project is Define-Plan-Execute-Close and a process is Build-Measure-Learn-Repeat.


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5  Process and Project are terms used in the Business Improvement or Six Sigma world, while the term project is used in the Project Management realm. What are the key differences in a Project and a Process? Can the terms be used interchangeably? Give examples to support your answer.

By Operational Definition, Process is the sequence of defined steps that need to be followed to accomplish a task Eg : Making Tea !!

Project is a small/big planned activity to either improve a set of processes or create a new set of processes to achieve a stated Objective!! Eg : Dubai Airport revisiting the  existing Immigration process to  reduce  processing time(improving existing process)  vs Dubai Tourism setting up world's first  underground  Resort (brand new project with brand new processes) !!

Project & Process words cannot be used interchangeably !!

A set of processes together can qualify as a Project !!/ one process alone in isolation rarely qualifies to be a Project. In general, Project is a larger n time consuming activity !!

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Difference between Project and Process


There are many ways to look at the differences between project and a process.

1)      Project is an initiative which you or Team takes up to complete certain set of deliverables. The deliverables mostly focuses on improvements which can benefit the process and organization in the financial ways or work on Return on Investment strategies. Usually companies focuses on cost reduction in the most efficient ways or streamlining the people/processes in the organization-this usually forms a project perspective initiative with tentative timelines.

Process on the other hand can be defined as something which has already been in place.

It has its in scope/out of scope matrix, customers, billing models, current services that they provide and people managing the team.


2)      Projects have a definite start and end time or a continuous improvement cycle whereas process is ongoing and follows the project management methodology of to operate on the team members, budget, resources and documentation in the process.


3)      Business Projects are driven more from the organizational perspective and focuses on long term cost benefits to the organization whereas process in service based industries usually billed from the customers usually can be termed as revenue generation projects ( Insurance , Healthcare, real estate etc)


4)      The ideas and improvements in the projects are incorporated in the process.

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