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The Relationship Between Operations and Project Management

Operations and project management are easily confused terms. While they share some characteristics, there are important differences when it comes to execution in the workplace. If businesses – regardless of size – want to optimise the bottom line, understanding where these two functions collide and separate is essential. Let’s unpack.

What is operations management?

Operations management is a job in itself and refers to the overall functions involved in directing, overseeing, and controlling the essential operations that keep a business running. These include project management as well as the management of processes relating to manufacturing, accounting, IT support, supply and delivery, maintenance, and human resources. The goal is to increase profitability by streamlining business processes.

What is project management?

Project management falls under operations management. You’d imagine an operations manager could take on managing projects as part of their KPI, but it’s not that simple. Project management comes with a host of responsibilities that could easily fall through the cracks if they aren’t on track. Simply put, project management is a temporary function that ensures the production and completion of a single service, product, or result.

How can a project manager support operations? According to a recent global research report by the Project Management Institute (PMI), there are five capabilities critical to the successful delivery of projects: collaborative leadership, relationship building, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, and commercial awareness. When project managers put these capabilities into practice, it’s clear how they underscore operations and allow the business to achieve its goals.

Where operations and project management overlap

What operations management and project management have in common is both are aimed at increasing business efficiency and output. On a more granular level, both these business functions involve tasks, projects, processes, costs, goals, and human resources.

Looking at projects as a sub-function of operations, there are a number of phases: conception, scoping, estimating, developing, executing, control, monitoring and completion. During a project’s life cycle, some of these phases will intersect with the functions of operations management.

For instance, when developing or upgrading a product (a project), the project manager will work closely with operations to allocate a budget, decide on required skills and staffing, and schedule the job to fit in with the business’s overall operations.

Where operations and project management differ

When you compare and contrast operations management and project management and how to approach these, you’ll quickly notice that both the goals and scope of work differ. It’s important to remember that a project is always time-limited, whereas operations literally never stop.

Looking at the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of operations and project management allows you to unblur the line between the two.

Here are the main differences – and how they overlap – based on their approach and goals:

The right person for the right job – how upskilling benefits business

All businesses, regardless of size, have to draw clear distinctions between the responsibilities attached to projects and operations and ensure skilled and qualified people are assigned to manage them.

Why is it so important in your business, and how can upskilling streamline your business and increase your profits?

Let’s look at it this way. The goal of both project and operations management is efficiency: doing as much as possible in as little time as possible with as few people as possible. When operations managers create processes, templates, and procedures for projects, they can reuse them on every project. The result is increased productivity, reduced costs and workload, and projects delivered on time.

There are other benefits, too. When everything related to a project is structured, and team members know exactly what they need to do and when they need to do it, it improves collaboration from the ground up. It also allows you to track the performance and results from project to project.

Lastly, efficient project management allows managers to control all the moving parts and identify and resolve problems before they spill over and jeopardise operations.

When skilled project and operations managers work together yet remain focused on their own deliverables, businesses set the groundwork that enables them to stay competitive and succeed in a highly competitive world. It’s that simple.

Become an operations manager in eight weeks

If you’ve always dreamt of a rewarding job as an operations manager or are in the business but want to upskill and improve your knowledge, take a look at MasterStart’s Operations Management Course. It can be completed in just eight weeks of studying online! Visit the Operations Management course page to learn more.

Human Resource Skills for People Managers

human resource skills in practice

Have you heard the statement ‘people are the most important assets” when referring to an organisation? I’m sure you have, and even if you haven’t, it’s likely you believe this statement to be true. Whether you’re a human resource manager, a line manager, or even a team leader, you’re aware of the value people add to a business. They’re invaluable components that move the business forward. It’s safe to say that without good people, the organisation would certainly collapse.


“People can exist, indeed did exist for thousands of years, without companies. But companies cannot exist without people.” — Lazlo Bock

If people really are the most important asset, doesn’t it make sense that each person who finds themselves in a leadership role should understand basic HR practices? Understanding how to manage staff challenges, support hybrid workspaces, successfully drive employee motivation, retain key employees, and hire good people should not be left up to the HR department alone but instead should be a prerequisite for managers across the board.


The benefits of strengthening your Human Resource skills as a people manager:

Before we emphasise the benefits of strengthening your HR skills, let’s first understand the general responsibilities of managing other people. You may notice that almost every managerial function involves the employees and teams that are being managed.


People-focused responsibilities that managers are called to perform include:

1 | Staff management: managers are required to interview, hire, and train new employees.
2 | Communication: managers act as the information-sharing vessel between top management and employees.
3 | Delegation: effective managers identify strengths within their team and allocate tasks accordingly.
4 | Motivation: a people manager is required to encourage and further motivate staff, increasing productivity and performance.
5 | Enforce company policy: managers enforce company policy, creating an environment built on accountability, responsibility and respect.
6 | Training: managers are required to devise training strategies and develop employees on new technologies or systems that being are introduced.
7 | Evaluate: managers evaluate employee performance and analyse data to ensure goals are being met.

Do you agree that the role of a manager requires a certain level of skill in human relations and people management? A manager does not perform their core responsibilities without interacting, managing, and involving the people they are working with.


How you will benefit from strengthening your Human Resource skills:

  • Understand people and personalities to ensure your staff management strategies are optimised.
  • Learn effective recruitment and selection techniques to ensure you build high-performance teams that’ll accelerate growth.
  • Devise and develop winning training strategies to get the most value out of your team.
  • Understand performance evaluation techniques, and learn how to strengthen performance and rapidly improve employee motivation.
  • Deal with grievances and disciplinaries in line with legalities.

A good manager becomes an excellent manager when their HR skills are just as strong as their technical and conceptual skills. Through their basic understanding of HR, their team will be positively impacted, encouraging further growth of the department and the business as a whole.


Developing HR-related skills will advance your career in management:

“Having good people skills means maximising effective and productive human interaction to everyone’s benefit”, says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant; How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job. “People want to connect on a humane level in the office; the alternative is a sterile environment with low productivity. So, the more you demonstrate these abilities, the faster your career will advance.”

She goes on to say:

“Given the choice between a savvy job candidate or, similarly, an employee seeking promotion – the one with excellent people skills and less technical ability will usually win the prize versus the converse.” She adds that “having good people radar is harder to teach than technical skills, but is a requisite for long-term, effective leadership.”

Get Your SME Business Ready For The New Year

Operations managers are a thriving business’ secret weapon. They are the people working (mostly) quietly in the background – keeping the wheels oiled and the business running smoothly.

Come the end of the year, holidays, deadlines, and the chaos that comes with the festive season have a huge impact on SME business, and that can spill over into the new year if they’re not managed efficiently. This is when the operations manager needs to step up their game to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Why operations management is so important to SME Business

SME business (small and medium enterprise) owners often make the mistake of thinking they can ‘do it all themselves’. But if you look at the pillars of efficient operations management, you’d wonder where they find the time. In reality, they probably don’t.

Taking a broad view, an operations manager will oversee the processes involved in converting business inputs (raw materials, labour, and technologies) into outputs (goods and services delivered to customers to generate revenue). By managing the ‘back office’ activities, operations managers are essential to a business’s success.

Drilling down, they’re responsible for several key functions that all fall under the operations umbrella: project management, operations strategy, team leadership, human resources, financials, and data analysis. They ensure consistent production and service delivery and that resources are used efficiently, while waste is reduced by tightening up processes and procedures.

Together, these components give SME business a competitive advantage, especially when there is a lot of competition in the market. It enables them to reach their business goals, mitigate risks, streamline business practices, and increase profitability.

SME Business End-of-year pitfalls

Many factors could affect a small business at the end of the year, and an operations manager will have to juggle them all. Think of supply chain disruptions as businesses shut down for the festive season, inflation, labour shortages, and the knock-on effects of a shift in consumer spending. Operations managers can mitigate these risks by ensuring stock, people, and sales processes are in place to handle them, along with increased volumes of customers. This support to management and marketing will enable businesses to create and meet demand without dropping the ball.

Get ready for the new year

Considering the varied functions that fall under operations management, these are important ones for SME businesses to prioritise as they wrap up the year and prepare for a fresh start:

  • Review IT systems, security, and digital assets
  • Renegotiate contracts with vendors and suppliers
  • Check and service all machinery and equipment
  • Evaluate staffing requirements, salaries, resignations, and new hires
  • Assess insurance coverage
  • Take stock of all inventory
  • Ensure workplace safety procedures are adequate
  • Reach out to new clients with automated marketing

Is Operations Management the right job for you?

You’re halfway there if you are a behind-the-scenes person who can multitask, solve problems, handle stress, and manage people and processes. Then, ask yourself:

  • Do you want to analyse, reorganise or redesign business processes that drive operations management?
  • Are you an employee who wants to have a bigger impact at work?
  • Do you want to become a business operations management authority in your workplace?

Then operations management is an excellent career path for you! And, getting started isn’t far out of reach.

MasterStart is proud to offer the Operations Management Course in partnership with the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). In just eight weeks of studying online, you can learn all the tricks of the trade and acquire the skills to strengthen business processes. Visit the Operations Management course page to learn more.

Closing the skills gap in banking

The South African banking industry has identified major gaps in the skills needed to continue as one of the most advanced and well-functioning in the world. As local banks continue to expand their hiring initiatives and hard-to-fill vacancies, they are also facing the challenges of relevant skills development, accelerated digitalisation, employee retention and recruitment.

With a recent survey stating that nearly a quarter of South African adults are expected to bank with a digital-only bank by 2023, our local institutions are on a mission to lead the way.

So how can they stay on top?

As South African banks add services to their portfolios to include the likes of retail, insurance and business sector banking, the need for tech and data skills increases too. Many local banks have implemented upskilling and recruitment policies to ensure that their teams are up to date in their fields and can confidently lessen the impact of absent skills

The focus for which skills to develop based on the needs and gaps are:

Cyber security
With cybercrime posing an imminent threat to the banking sector, there has been an uptake in the demand for cybersecurity skills and the need to protect data, networks, and systems from possible threats. Needing specialised and sought-after skills, the banking sector can look to manage and mitigate potential risks and threats with specialised skills offered in programmes for FinTech, Digital Transformation, Risk Management, Data & AI Training, and Artificial Intelligence.

Digital literacy
Navigating an increasingly digital landscape has been a challenge, and as South Africa accelerates what we do online, it is key that employees fundamentally understand how banking continues to grow in a digital age. Employees and teams alike need to confidently navigate and keep up in a world that is fully integrated with diverse technologies, clearly and effectively communicate online, innovate and share ideas virtually, as well as manage teams digitally.

By establishing work readiness programmes, banks are focusing on scarce occupations and skills gaps, and employers will have the opportunity to upskill or re-skill workers whose positions have/will become outdated as a result of digitalisation. Employees will need to continue to gain fundamental power skills, such as adaptability, problem-solving and time management, enabling them to keep pace with rapid advancement in the workplace.

Managers and functional roles can close the skills gap by upskilling and reskilling in the key areas of Operations Management, Coaching for Performance, and Business and Management Development.

Data Analysis
As one of the first adopters of data analytics, financial institutions rely on implementing the right tools and technologies to collect, analyse, and draw fair conclusions from the data they gather. Whether this is to identify threats, track customer trends or verify information – data is key to ensuring banks can create innovative solutions to persistent issues and cater to their existing and future clients’ needs. Learn more about customers, forecast growth opportunities, better manage risks, improve the customer experience, and remain competitive with the latest data and AI skills.

Experiencing a significant “brain drain” in recent years, a trend likely to continue in the South African economy as skilled resources consider emigrating to secure employment and educational opportunities elsewhere, international companies are increasingly interested in poaching the skilled South African workforce, renowned for its strong work ethic. It is key to highlight the opportunities within our local economy and what businesses can do to stimulate economic growth and meet the skills gap challenges head-on.

Masterstart can help your organisation close the skills gap, through our content and course delivery, centered on workplace applicability, supported by industry experts and our university partners. If you’d like to learn how we can help in tackling your organisations learning and development Masterstart NEXT our a skills advisory company focussed on minimising an oganisation’s training spend and increasing their Return on Learning Investment (ROLI), is looking forward to your call.

Risk Management in the Real World

Risk management has been a buzzword in the world of (big) business for some time. But, in a competitive and ever-evolving world, it has become equally essential for small businesses to incorporate risk management strategies into their daily operations.

As Gary Cohn, Vice Chairman of IBM, famously said, “If you don’t invest in risk management, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, it’s a risky business.”

He’s right. Learning how to manage the different types of risk your business is exposed to – and implementing the appropriate processes, structure, and governance to detect and deter them – is vital if a company wants to survive and thrive.

What is risk management?

At its core, risk management forecasts the potential for negative consequences and predicts how these might impact a business or situation. These risks are both internal (operational, financial, human resources) and external (natural disasters, supply chain, market disruptions, government compliance).

During this process, managers identify, analyse, prioritise, monitor, and respond to risks. Depending on the business’s tolerance levels, management can accept the risks or deny them and choose an alternate approach.

Applying risk management to all businesses, big and small

Common risk in business

Whether you are a one-person operation, a small start-up, or a large enterprise, risk management applies equally.

Personal business

The biggest risk to a personal business, such as a financial advisor, freelance worker, or private contractor, is key person loss. This happens when the owner cannot work and the business grinds to a halt. The subsequent loss of income puts them at substantial financial risk as well as operational risks and business interruption.

Small business

One of the biggest threats to small businesses is the financial risks brought on by uncertain economic and market conditions. This affects everything from business continuity to cash flow, payroll, debt repayment, and purchasing power. Strategic risks come from a lack of planning for each stage of the business life cycle and not considering shifting external environments, like technological advancements and a changing competitor landscape.

Enterprise businesses

The larger the enterprise, the more risks it is exposed to. The primary risks, however, are related to the financial, strategic, and operational sectors. Financial risks include increased costs, a decline in revenues, and business disruption due to natural and political disasters and major macroeconomic shifts. Some businesses take strategic risks knowingly, such as higher-risk, higher-reward ventures.

An important risk to have on your radar if you’re part of an enterprise is the SA government’s Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) initiative. A lack of certification creates reputational and financial risks, impacting contracts, licences, funding, and tenders from government and private companies.

Prioritise Managing Risk for a Secure Business

If you find risk management as fascinating as we do, now’s the time to secure the hatches with our Foundations of Risk Management course. We’ve partnered with Wits Business School to provide an accessible online course in the essentials of risk management. With a maximum time investment of just six hours per week, you can protect your business and avoid unnecessary risks. To learn more about the Foundations of Risk Management online course, read more here, and start tackling business risks today.

Defining success with Shaleenah Marie Samsunder

Meeting up with Shaleenah

Heading up the Learning and Education portfolio at Siemens, Shaleenah is a certified coach and NLP Practitioner with a Masters in Science Degree in Coaching and Behavioural Change.

Her passion, contribution and commitment to the empowerment of women in South Africa led to her being selected as the “Top Women First Runner up” in Topco Media Top Women Awards in 2012. She was also nominated as one of 3 young achievers under 40 in the Oliver Empowerment and Transformation Awards in 2013. The Oliver Awards aim to identify and acknowledge true empowerment, leadership and innovation.

The opportunities that change you

Shaleenah studied at the University of Durban Westville where she received the Faculty Medal for Academic Excellence. Leaving South Africa when she received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. With her experience gained in the USA, she returned to South Africa to contribute to the development of human potential here and enrolled for post-graduate studies in Human Resources and Organisational Development.

Women’s empowerment and development

As the chairperson of the Siemens African Leadership Organisation of Women, Shaleenah positioned this initiative as a women’s empowerment and development initiative targeting women in her organisation and beyond. The purpose and vision of ALOW are to inspire, motivate, empower, develop and connect women. Through ALOW’s activities, opportunities were created for individuals to view leadership in powerful new ways and enrich their own sense of possibility.

Shaleenah was also instrumental in establishing the ALOW Business Book Club, a leadership, networking and educational program that transformed the solitary act of reading into a powerful opportunity not only to engage in powerful conversations with other women but also to develop leadership competencies. The Business Book club was used as a platform to raise awareness around female leadership and support and promote South African authors.

Empowering individuals for Shaleenah goes beyond career advice and her initiatives ensure that individuals are empowered in all aspects of their life from wellness topics to business and life skills. The rationale for introducing these empowerment initiatives is to ensure that individuals live their most empowered, professional and personal lives.

Setting up future skills

She recently established SieMent which is a Siemens mentorship programme. A critical factor which impacts employability is the job readiness of graduates. Graduates often do not have the necessary skills required to be employable. In order for students to become more employable, the gap between academia and industry needed to be bridged. SieMent is bridging that gap between academia and industry by closing the disparity gap between the expectations of industry and the work readiness of graduates in South Africa. The Mentorship model SieMENT, which Siemens is driving will ensure benefits for the graduating students who will find their transition into industry roles smoother.

Using your power to change lives for the better.

Empowering individuals in the workplace

In her words, “Our collective experience and skills are our most valuable resources. We need to inculcate a culture of lifelong learning that includes the sharing of knowledge, experiences and the transfer of skills. We need to actively promote mentorship because having a mentor can mean the difference between career stagnation and progress for many individuals with untapped potential. Empowering others with the knowledge, skills, and the ‘know-how’ is not a choice we have but a social responsibility we have as individuals in society”.

Take the time to make an impact on those around you

Shaleenah is the Group Mentor at SieMent where students are mentored and offered valuable insights into the dynamics of the workplace. Shaleenah is also a Global Siemens coach where she works with individuals to help them gain self-awareness, clarify goals, achieve their development objectives, unlock their potential, and leverage their strengths.

Shaleenah Marie Samsunder brings to the table both her passion for the development of people and her passion for designing learning programs that create an effective leadership culture which fosters innovation, emotional intelligence, responsibility and high performance.

In her words “ I try to live my life by always committing myself to excellence and never associating my name with mediocrity, this is best encapsulated by the quote “Everything you do has your name on it. Autograph it with pride”.

MasterStart’s Women’s Month Webinar – Creating an asynchronous and agile team with Dr. Regina Cordes

On Tuesday, 23rd of August 2022, MasterStart held their first Women’s Month Webinar with special guest speaker Dr. Regina Cordes.

An internationally recognised professor and expert in organisational behaviour, leadership, and services management, Regina shared her own experience in creating an asynchronous and agile team and the importance of employee satisfaction and wellness.

Watch the full recorded webinar below