Defining the difference between a Project & Business as Usual

At Hart Square, we have the great pleasure of working with our clients across the non-profit sector to deliver transformative technology projects that will support and enhance the experiences for members, fundraisers, and beneficiaries. However, it’s important that before our clients embark on a piece of work, they understand the difference between a project and business as usual (BAU). I will set out here the key differences and how to approach both to ensure successful delivery.

When is a piece of work a project?

Defining when a piece of work is a project is a critical element for any organisation to consider. The two key questions to ask are:

  1. Is the piece of work temporary with a clear endpoint?
  2. Is it delivering a unique product with a defined purpose?

A defining characteristic of a project is that it’s a temporary structure with a defined start and end date, so a project will be specifically initiated, then once the activities have been delivered, the project has been completed and will be closed. If there is no defined go-live or end date, then it’s likely this is business as usual activity or process. An example of this would be membership renewals that take place throughout each year where a series of regular processes would occur.

Aligned with this, the second key question is whether the work is delivering a unique product with a defined purpose. A project aims to produce deliverables that address a problem or need that has been identified before it starts. A good example of this is a new CRM or website which would be looking to increase the fundraising income and profile of the charity.

There are several other characteristics that are important to define a project but the above are two things that really stand a project apart from BAU.

Defining Business As Usual

BAU can typically be defined as a standard day to day business operation that ensures continuity within the organisation. This would include a range of activities such as monthly reporting, IT helpdesk or supporter services. These functions operate through a day-day activity, throughout the year, often repeating the tasks and are not time-bound or have a specific capital budget associated with the work.

The cross-over of resources

Finally, there is one area of cross-over to consider and that is the approach to resources. There needs to be an acknowledgement of the resources and people involved across both projects and BAU to ensure there isn’t resourcing gaps and challenges across the organisation and that people have sufficient time to deliver the quality of work that is required.

It’s critically important to understand the difference between a project and BAU, when defining which approach to take to the activity. It’s important to take the time to plan the activity effectively, understand the timings and how you as an organisation define the work required. Projects require a distinctly different approach and mindset; they are solving a problem and it’s important that they are temporary. In time, project outcomes may become part of BAU activity in organisations and become embedded across an organisation.

Top Excel Templates To Make Project Management Easier

The job of a project manager has always been daunting, to say the least. 

Delegating tasks, tracking results, budgeting, resource planning, creating schedules, managing people—all these can be quite overwhelming without the proper tools. 

Fortunately for today’s project managers, there’s no shortage of tools to make their jobs easier. 

Take the following Excel project management templates, for example. Most of them are free and accessible online, and they will always come in handy whenever project managers need an effective and efficient way of carrying out their tasks. 

Gantt Chart Project Template 

A Gantt Chart Excel template provides you with an excellent visual representation of task schedules, allowing you to see project timelines in more detail. 

With a Gantt Chart, it’s easier for you to see things like your project’s start and end times, target milestones with an overview of the tasks every member of the team needs to do, priority levels, and due dates for all their deliverables, among other things. 

Building a well-functioning Gantt chart could be complicated and may take time, but once you get it done, you can be sure that your project’s most important tasks will be carefully scheduled, tracked, and finished on or before the deadline.

Click here to download the Gantt Chart Project Template 

Excel Project Budget Templates 

Every project needs a budget and a smart way of handling it to ensure its completion within its limits. 

Excel Budget templates have proven to be quite useful for project managers trying their best to predict and manage the financial side of things. 

An Excel Project Budget template allows project managers to create detailed costings and fund allocations. 

With this one-size-fits-all template, tracking materials, labour, and fixed costs has never been so easy. 

Click here to download the Excel Project Budget Templates

Critical Path Method Template 

Project managers may be jack-of-all-trades by nature, but if there’s one task that takes a lot out of them, it would probably be creating a Critical Path Method or CPM. 

Painstaking as creating a CPM can be, it can never be stressed enough how important it is to successful project management. 

After all, a CPM helps project managers identify which tasks they can afford to delay and which ones are more critical and require more attention and resources. 

Thankfully, the Critical Path Method template exists to make CPM creation easier for project managers. Aside from pinpointing crucial and non-crucial tasks, the CPM template also allows you to determine how long the latter can be possibly delayed. 

Click here to download the Critical Path Method Template 

Status Report Template 

Project managers should always know the status of the team on a regular basis. They cannot be unaware of their teams’ progress (or lack of it), or that could come back and haunt them later. 

The Status Report Template can help project managers stay on top of everything that’s going on with their team. 

It takes mere seconds to generate project schedule metrics using this template. Aside from giving project managers the ability to see where the team stands at a glance, the Status Report Template also makes for more impressive presentations for teammates and stakeholders alike. 

Click here to download the Status Report Template 

Earned Value Management Template 

The Earned Value Management Template allows project managers to compare the project’s actual expenses to its budget to see if it can be completed on time without going beyond its allocated funds. 

In doing so, project managers will be able to determine how the project is progressing vis-à-vis its budget, as well as identify possible issues early on to avoid future issues with its finances. 

Click here to download the Earned Value Management Template

Risk Register Template 

All projects come with certain risks, some big, some small. 

If a project manager can anticipate what those risks are, he or she should be able to come up with ways to counter them to keep the project moving forward. 

With the Risk Register template, project managers should be able to see risks coming from a mile away and deal with them promptly. 

When using the Risk Register template, make sure you draw up a list of all possible risks to your project. Spell out the potential impact of each one, then appoint people in your team to be on the lookout for those risks so you can meet them head-on when they come. 

Click here to download the Risk Register Template 


It’s definitely a great time to be a project manager with all these free and downloadable Excel templates at their disposal. 

A project manager’s job today may be no less demanding and challenging than it was in the past, but as long as these tools exist, they can breathe more easily knowing they have these Excel templates at their disposal. 

Anthony Stevens is the Content Specialist for Excel Templates, a resource for free Excel templates including calendars and charts. When not writing, he spends time building furniture and running with his dog.


Hart Square’s free-to-non-profits Training Programme “How to deliver successful projects” provides more great insight into project management tips and techniques. Click through below to find out more about it.


So, what does a Project Manager do all day?

We fill a lot of roles in projects for our clients, but our core disciplines are project management and business analysis. We often get asked, so what does a Project Manager do all day then? Well….

They spin!

They spin around like a disco ball. Relentlessly and tirelessly spinning plans, issues, risks, resources, stakeholders and priorities. Full of energy, a project manager sees round the corner and several steps ahead. Plan A highly risky? Here is Plan B and we can spin up Plan C if needed.

Like the hundreds of facets of a disco ball, a PM manages the detail within their sphere – plans, RAID logs, status reports, budgets, resources, board papers, agendas, notes and more. The multitude of issues that need unblocking in order to drive a project forward – a project manager never loses sight of those.

From hundreds of small shiny elements comes the whole sphere of a disco ball and the bigger picture of a project. Like a disco ball firmly attached to the ceiling, a project manager is strongly aligned with the original business case at all times.

They understand the vision and purpose for the project clearly, ensuring nobody on the project loses focus or forgets it either.

Like a disco ball, reflecting the light from everything around them, a PM does not act in isolation, happily and tirelessly communicating with their team in order to facilitate decisions and find solutions. Good communication means different things to different people and a project manager adapts their approach with subject matter experts, techies or board members – Zoom or MS Teams, emails or calls, video on or video off, or sometimes perhaps only a face-to-face meeting can work.

Adding a sparkle to everything around them, a project manager drives change as part of the project. No amount of excellent project documentation or planning alone can deliver a successful project with lasting impact. A project manager needs to have enough sparkle to get buy in from their team and win hearts and minds of the people around them to drive the change required to succeed.

Relentless energy, seeing the bigger picture, whilst keeping an eye on the detail, clear and flexible communication to drive the change, a project manager undoubtedly brings a lot to the party!


Hart Square are a team of specialist project managers and consultants, who have been dedicated to the non-profit sector for over a decade. We deliver hundreds of hours of expert guidance and support to charities,  membership bodies and other non-profits every month. Get in touch to find out how we can help you.