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What is the difference between business management and project management?

Here's help to differentiate between business management and project management roles. Picture Shutterstock
Here's help to differentiate between business management and project management roles. Picture Shutterstock

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Are you in a junior role? It can be a great starting place to launch your career. If you're a graduate or new to the workforce, entry-level roles are worthwhile as you grow your skills, experience, confidence and expertise. You'll learn how a company operates and how to fulfil the functions of your role. Along the way, you'll make connections with colleagues and perhaps some friendships that will last a lifetime. We've all got to start somewhere.

But after a while, it is time to spread your wings and take on more responsibility for more remuneration. You should aim for management roles eventually, but there are so many. For instance, you might've seen advertised business management and project management roles but have struggled to differentiate between them.

For either, you'll likely have to go back to study. This helpful article will explain the key differences so you can decide between a business management course and an online master of project management. Read on to discover more.

What is business management?

Business management is a term used for the task of organising, planning, controlling and directing the many different activities of a business or enterprise to achieve its objectives or goals. Depending on the business, these goals might be different.

For instance, a for-profit company wants to scale growth, increase revenue, decrease loss and make a healthy profit. A non-profit entity wants to achieve a goal according to its vision, such as eliminating poverty or assisting people with their mental health. Regardless of the function of the business, the basic principles remain the same.

Business management involves supervising all business functions, from finance budgets, staffing and operations to advertising, marketing and human resources. Business managers need a particular set of skills, which we'll cover below, and must be able to make high-impact strategic decisions that drive the business's success. It's not a role for everyone, as there is a high level of responsibility coupled with a stressful environment with lots of pressure.

Here's help to differentiate between business management and project management roles. Picture Shutterstock
Here's help to differentiate between business management and project management roles. Picture Shutterstock

What skills does a business manager need?

Being a business manager requires a specific skill set, for sure. A great business manager will be an effective communicator, as they'll need to work with all levels of the business and across different teams. This involves having some decent soft skills, such as empathy, understanding and emotional intelligence.

In addition, a great business manager will be organised, have impeccable time management, and must be able to effectively multi-task and manage competing priorities. In some cases, an affinity with numbers is required if the business manager controls budgets or cost centres. Furthermore, those in business management need leadership skills and have to be able to inspire those below them to achieve their best for the enterprise's good.

What is project management?

Now, let's move on to discussing what project management is.

Project management is the use of methods, processes, skills, experience and knowledge to achieve a specific project objective or outcome according to the agreed parameters of the project. In all cases, project management has a specific and final deliverable that is confined to a time limit and budget. For instance, on the small side of things, rolling out new software for a small business is a project.

On the grand scale, the construction of a stadium or highrise building is a significant project. Each requires project management. One might take a few weeks, the other years.

A key difference between project management and business management is that project management always has a final deliverable and a limited period. Whereas business management is an ongoing role with no clearly defined end.

Different project management frameworks

There are a range of different project management frameworks or methodologies. The use of them will depend on the nature of the project. Agile, Waterfall, Scrum and Kanban are standard methodologies for software or application development projects.

Some different methodologies used in other sectors, such as construction, can include Critical Chain or Lean.

Delving into each of these frameworks is outside the scope of this article, but if you're interested in them, it's well worth doing some independent research to learn more.

What skills does a project manager need?

A project manager needs quite a diverse skill set. For instance, effective risk management and mitigation is an essential skill for a project manager. They need to be able to effectively calculate the risks associated with a project and strategically plan to mitigate those risks.

Other skills include being able to manage budgets, as cost overruns on a project have a significant negative impact. Delivering a project to a budget is essential. Furthermore, time management is another critical skill, as projects are always time sensitive.

Project managers also need good soft skills, as project management often involves many other people, all with tasks related to the successful completion of the project. You'll need to be able to manage people effectively and hold them accountable to deadlines and budgets. Part of this includes effective meeting facilitation and mediation skills, for instance, if you need to resolve a dispute between teams or people.

A management summary

This helpful article has shared the critical differences between business and project management. As you can see, there are some skills that both roles require, but there are some key differences too. Are you ready to embark on your new career path as a business manager or project manager?