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Do you know the difference between planning a lunch with a friend and planning a wedding? Then you are on your way to knowing the difference between tasks and projects.

Projects contain a multitude of tasks that need to be organized and managed effectively. Knowing when to use task or project management to accomplish your goals is important. So what is task management vs project management and why is it important?

In this article, we’ll break down what task management and project management is and how they differ. Understanding these differences will help you approach each project with a strong strategy to ensure you meet your milestones and find success.

What Is Task Management?

Task management is the process of managing tasks or individual job assignments within a project. Task management involves planning, tracking, and managing tasks in order to ensure the successful completion of a project. 

Task managers use tools to help them with organizing their tasks, prioritizing tasks, defining workflows, and tracking progress on each task. Task management helps project managers keep projects on track by breaking larger goals into smaller, achievable tasks and tracking progress on each one.

What Is Project Management?

Project management is an organizational process used to lead and plan a project from start to finish. It involves defining the scope of the project, setting goals and objectives, scheduling tasks, allocating resources, assigning responsibility for completion, and monitoring progress. Project management also includes budgeting costs, analyzing risks, evaluating outcomes, and making changes as needed.

Project management includes everything you need to complete a series of tasks in order to complete an end goal and finish the final deliverables.

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3 Key Differences Between Task & Project Management

The main difference between task management and project management is the scale of what needs to be accomplished. Task management is used to manage small-scale tasks, while project management is used to manage large-scale projects. 

You can think of task management as a to-do list while project management ensures the functionality of team members and keeps track of all the moving parts of a project to ensure successful completion.

1. Size and Scope of Your Goal

The biggest difference between task and project management is that project management is used to manage the completion of a larger goal. Task management can be used to organize and complete the tasks needed to accomplish and deliver that goal.

For example, if you are building a house, you would use project management to guide your process. Construction is made up of many different tasks, pouring a foundation, framing, finishing, etc. which are all their own tasks. 

All the tasks need to be completed in order to make the whole project of building a house come together. Each individual task in the project will be meticulously (or not so meticulously, in the case of digital projects!) planned during the project planning phase. 

If you were just replacing a tread in a deck, that would be more suitable for task management. It only requires one or two tasks to complete the objective, and it is not tied to an overarching goal.

2. It’s All in the Details

Task management requires a detailed workflow to ensure the successful completion of individual tasks within a project, while project management requires a more holistic approach to managing the entire project from start to finish.

Tasks may be dependent on each other and timing could be of the essence. When building a home, the framers can’t start their task without having a foundation to build off of. 

Task management can ensure tasks are done on time through time tracking and workflow management, which also helps highlight the order they need to be completed so that other tasks can build off of this work.

3. Project Management is Temporary, Task Management is Continuous

Task management is used for smaller projects or tasks, which employees complete daily. Whether it’s sending out daily reports or going to meetings, workers have tasks they need to complete consistently. Task management tools can be used to create recurring tasks and task dependencies for the day-to-day and will help streamline your everyday workflows.

Project management is temporary. It’s used when a company needs to take on larger projects such as developing new software or creating a new product or app.

You can use project management tools to define initiatives and timeframes, prioritize the milestones and tasks for your project team, help determine the life cycle of the project, measure project progress, and use automation and integrations to ensure that the project stays on schedule and within budget.

These two use cases have different goals and needs. It’s important to know which management process will work for your use case.

What’s The Difference Between A Project & A Task?

A project is a set of activities with a beginning and an end. Projects involve multiple stakeholders, require extensive planning, involve coordination between different teams, and have a timeline to completion which can take several months. 

A task is a single piece of work within a project. Tasks are typically smaller in scope than the overall project and may involve only one person or team to complete. Tasks can depend on each other and build off the work of the previous task.

Tasks can require as little as one individual, while a project is almost always guaranteed to require a team.

When To Use Project Management or Task Management

The type of project you are working on will determine which approach is best for you. Task management is best used for smaller projects or tasks that involve only one person or team to complete. 

Task managers can use task management to track task completion, review dependencies, and evaluate task owners. Task management can be used to create guides for daily tasks that are repetitive and ongoing.

Project management is best used for larger projects that require extensive planning and coordination between multiple stakeholders. Use project management when you need to include multiple teams, a timeline, a budget, and/or multiple tasks.

Project management will help you keep on your target within your project scope.

Task Management Software vs Project Management Software

Task management software is an excellent choice for organizing a list of tasks. Software can help you create task lists, group tasks (by type, task owner, time, etc.), and keep tasks on a specific timeline. Software is also helpful for tracking tasks sequentially when tasks are order specific.

Project management software is similar to task management systems, however, it covers a much larger scope. This software can include file management, communication, collaborative documents, and group calendars all in one place. It should also include the ability to create and edit Gantt charts and Kanban boards, as both are useful ways of viewing all tasks within a project.

A project manager can use software to analyze the timeline and budget of a project to stay within scope. Stakeholders can also use the software to provide reports, updates, and deliverables and get pertinent project information in one space.

Both types of software should provide templates for things like recurring specific tasks, different project types, and for visualizing workflows (depending on which type of software you’re going for). Both should also have the ability to set due dates, end dates, and start dates for both single tasks and/or whole projects. 

Choose What Works for You

Task management and project management both have their place in today’s workplace. Task management is best used for smaller projects or tasks, while project management is better suited for larger projects that require extensive planning and coordination between multiple stakeholders.

Using task management will allow you to focus on the details and cover all areas of a small project. Project management covers the big picture and incorporates all the tasks needed to complete a larger goal. Combining them with the support of management tools can help you reach new levels of success and keep your entire team on track.

When choosing the best project management software for your needs, make sure to compare things like pricing, integrations (ex. Google Drive and Excel), and whether it has all the necessary features (some teams and orgs might require resource management tools, digital asset management features, or other features depending on size and scope).

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By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of thedpm.com. I've been in the industry for more than 20 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony. Ben's a Certified Scrum Master, PRINCE2 Practitioner and productivity nut.

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