What is the difference between project management and product management?
August 16, 2018
August 16, 2018
If you ask an employee at most companies what the difference is between a product and project manager, you will hear that the terms are often confused and intertwined as being similar in function. While many of the soft skills surrounding a project manager such as organization, coordination and communication help product managers being successful, there is much more involved in running a product than running a project. While there are clear career paths to project management, there is no real defined path for product management. As a result, there can be confusion on the roles and responsibilities of the product manager role and what the true difference is between a project manager and a product manager.
Product management needs to maintain the big picture of the product roadmap to always keep in mind where it is going in the short term and how the features they are working on align with the long term vision of the product strategy. This requires constantly taking in new ideas from team members, users and stakeholders as well as monitoring competitor analysis to review and re-prioritize the planned features to ensure the product remains competitive. The product manager workflow requires work that needs to occur long before a release or project is kicked off and requires a good deal of work after it is complete to look at the data which results from the project and make improvements or suggestions for the next iteration as a result.
Project managers on the other hand are able to focus in at a much lower level than a product manager on a specific release, project or iteration which is in flight or about to take off. Project managers typically are handed a scope or assignment from a product manager to carry out to initiate and complete a deliverable which aligns to the big picture. A product manager can have multiple project managers working on various projects that align with a short term product roadmap.
The project manager is focused on successfully implementing a specific feature or release within the product managers overall product roadmap. Typically, a product manager should maintain a long term product roadmap which shows in big chunks of work the main milestones and deliverables that should be worked on over the next 3 to 5 years. Additionally, a product manager would maintain a more specific product release roadmap which lines out the next 12 months and the features expected to be included in those releases. Project management comes around when a release is being initialized to confirm budget, human resources, schedules and the specific milestones within a software development lifecycle are accomplished for a specific iteration of work within a product roadmap.
As you can see a product manager works at a much higher level with responsibilities to research and define a product roadmap while a project manager is working within the product roadmap on a specific deliverable or release to ensure it is successful. When a release is deployed successfully, the project manager succeeded. When a business revenue and user base increases then the product manager is viewed as successful as ultimately they are responsible for the business and product growth while project managers are responsible for a projects successful release on time and within budget.