Project management and change management are actually quite different disciplines, but often get confused, especially when enterprise companies are the midst of long, arduous projects. Because these large projects can often involve large-scale change within an organization and change management principles involve using project management concepts — it’s easy to see why the two are often confused for one another.

While there is some overlap between both project and change management they both typically involve different goals with completely different priorities. For both to work together, project managers and change managers must have a full understanding of what the two have in common, how they work together to reach common goals, and how they differ as well.

Objectives of Project and Change Management

Project management is a set of processes, tasks, and strategies that are used to guide a team through a project and reach a pre-defined goal for that project. Projects always have a defined target date for the completion of the project, which may be subject to change as the project begins to take shape.

In change management that are noticeable differences. Changes management is a process and strategy that is designed to help organizations adapt to new changes. This is done by changing internal processes and external factors that could have an effect on the organization.

Change management isn’t a set list of tasks. It can, and should, adapt over time as organizations begin to go through the change that they are managing. There are no clearly defined deliverables, only a need for the organization to adapt. As they evolve to meet the changing conditions and challenges, a good change management strategy will evolve with the organization.

Change management is all about ensuring that a solution or change within the organization is embraced, adopted, and used by employees. If a new company-wide software solution were being rolled out, change managers would be there to assist the company in finding ways to ensure the new software would be used among their teams. They are there to understand how employees have been impacted and identify ways in which they can ease the transition without sacrificing a positive outcome in the process.

Methodologies of PM vs CM

One of the most notable distinctions between project management and change management is the structure that is assigned to each strategy. Project management is typically well defined. There are deliverables, due dates, and a list of tasks that must be completed in order for the project to be complete.

At the enterprise level, projects have a defined process that is put together at the outset of the project. There are also defined phases throughout the project to help the project management team determine and manage the project as a whole.

Change management is unpredictable. The tasks involved in change management are often identified on the fly as a response to changing conditions within the company. When enterprise organizations go through a large-scale change, they can be unpredictable.

There is no way to foresee all of the different situations that will arise from the change. Project managers may be able to plan out their entire project ahead of time, but change managers need to be able to adapt to changes as they arise.

Measuring success also differs between the two disciplines. Changes management focuses on the people side of projects including the speed of adoption, utilization, proficiency of employees, and achievement of results. Project management tends to focus on more measurable metrics such as deliverable turn around times, budgets, technical requirements, and outcomes.

Training and Responsibilities

These differences lead to some notable changes in the training and responsibilities for each position. The two roles require different training altogether and often require some on the job training to reach their position.

Project managers may follow a different career path, specializing in a specific field before reaching the project manager position. There are also training programs and degrees that can prepare talent specifically for project management jobs in a wide range of different disciplines.

Change management experts can come from a range of background disciplines as well. Common career paths can include coming through communication or managing consulting positions. Typically, experience is the main consideration when hiring for change management positions. They have to have experience to understand how small decisions can have organization-wide affects, including on partnered vendors and customers.

There are no widely accepted change management certifications and degrees, there are a range of internal training programs inside of large corporate companies that can help workers come from other positions.

Reporting Structure

Another difference between the two positions is in the reporting structure. The two have different positions on the org chart. A project manager will typically report to direct stakeholders or a project sponsor. The role is supported by a framework that might include a program manager. The project manager will have their own management team under them when the project is large enough.

A change manager will report directly to the project sponsor and sit at the same level as the project manager in most cases. However, the role could also report to the project manager, if change management is working alongside the project manager in large-scale projects.

A change manager may also have their own managers underneath them that help them to identify issues with the changes and implement new policies throughout the organization. A change manager doesn’t operate as actively within the project governance structures and may not necessarily sit on the project board in some companies.

Two Important Positions

In enterprise companies, project managers and change managers have two different but very important roles. While project managers are typically viewed as “higher on the food chain” in most organizations, change managers may actually play a larger role in the success of large-scale projects in some cases. Understanding the subtle differences between the two can help to ensure that their duties do not overlap and that the importance of the two positions is recognized internally.