Understanding the relationship between Service Management and Project Management is a topic of interest for many people because, at first glance, both techniques appear to be competing for the same workspace in many organizations.

They are critical practices for every business to develop and prosper. So, although project management and service management may sound similar, there are several key distinctions between the two concepts.

Before we dive deeper into the differences, let’s first understand what each technique individually means.

What is Service Management?

A service provides value to end-users by enabling their desired results without the ownership of costs and risks.

Service management is a process-based technique that emphasizes providing IT services to end-users. It associates IT service delivery with the organization’s requirements and overall business goals that make use of them.

Service management is a long-lasting process that is dedicated to creating repetitive outputs. All services have margins that describe various inputs and outputs that impact them and the consistent outcomes that must be delivered.

Some key KPIs of service management include customer satisfaction (CSAT), reduction in the total cost of ownership (TCO), % of availability, reduction in incidents, no. of services improvements planned vs. implemented, and so on.

What is Project Management?

A project is a way for businesses to achieve specified goals and apply strategies. It is a short-term undertaking to develop a distinct product, service, or outcome.

Project management is the method of applying knowledge, skills, and strategies to implement projects quickly and successfully, while also satisfying customer and stakeholder expectations.

Project management is a short-term process with pre-defined time frames and distinct outcomes provided at completion. The process encompasses not just the development of software, but also the development of services, infrastructure, processes, etc. Every project has a limit to the possibilities and constraints it faces, and it works within the constraints of available resources, competencies, and deadlines.

Some key KPIs of project management include deviation of planned budget, planned vs. actual schedule variance, cost variance, % of milestones missed, and so on.

Differences between Service Management and Project Management

Project management is used to ensure that all the organization’s projects are executed well and delivered on time. Following the development of a product or service, service management takes over to carry out the subsequent processes. Though service management and project management may appear to be identical, they have several key distinctions.

Some key differences between service management and project management are:

  • Service management is mainly concerned with managing and delivering IT services to benefit the end-users, while project management mainly focuses on managing individual projects.
  • Service management is a more permanent management process, specifically, like an ongoing lifecycle process. Project management is a temporary management process that lasts until the project is concluded.
  • The service management process includes designing, creating, delivering, supporting, and managing the overall lifecycles of IT services. The project management process includes initiation, planning, execution, delivery, control, and closing of projects.
  • The main objective of service management is to ensure that the right processes, technology, and members are set up so that the organization can achieve its business goals while project management’s main objective is to complete temporary projects that are part of achieving larger organizational goals.
  • The factors that impact service management include poor planning and designing, inadequate resources, lack of communication, etc. The factors affecting project management include team-building issues, timing or scheduling issues, risks, communication channels, procurement issues, etc.
  • Service management offers benefits like improved efficiency, reduced operational cost, increased visibility, providing value to end-users, etc. while project management offers benefits like increased chances of achieving desired outcomes, better expectations management by setting scope, improved growth & development within the team, etc.
  • Service management is more outcome-based than output-based while project management is output-based, not outcome-based.

When we combine both concepts, we see that a project is a technique for designing and bringing services to life. Projects are specified sprints of activities like initiation, planning, development, building, testing, executing, delivery, controlling, and closing that are used to develop services that provide value to end-users. As a result, project management is the short-term administration of projects that result in long-term services. Once a project has completed its purpose or goal of developing a service, it is closed until the next production is required.

Service management and project management techniques have a few similarities, as well.

  • Both the methodologies adhere to a process-based approach and focus on achieving organizational goals.
  • Both methods provide transparency and a framework of strategies and tools to achieve improved results.
  • Finally, service management and project management make it possible for their respective teams to coordinate and work in a way that satisfies the end customers.


When we return to the fundamental definitions of service management and project management, we can see that the two processes are not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually beneficial in providing value to a business. They provide optimal levels of control and management to guarantee that business objectives are effectively met. Thus, both service management and project management processes should be used in any organization to improve performance and overall outcomes.

If you’re looking to implement a unified platform that can manage both of these disciplines, check out Motadata ServiceOps Service Desk. It is an ITIL-aligned ITSM platform with a project management module that can enable you to modernize your service management efforts.