The Project Manager and Product Manager roles are different. Yet they are also somewhat similar. It’s no surprise that many people are keen to understand the comparison.
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Product Manager and Project Manager: Comparison
A product manager manages the lifecycle of a product, while a project manager manages the lifecycle of a project.
The Key Difference
But the key difference is that a product is a long-lived saleable thing or service, that may be part of a business portfolio of saleable assets indefinitely. A project is a temporary endeavor that produces one or more products, and then winds up.
The product lifecycle is likely to include the need for a number of projects – like developing a new version of the product, creating and mounting a marketing campaign, or securing a logistics agreement for the warehousing and distribution of the product.
Simple infographic ‘this or that’ comparisons like ‘The product manager has the vision while the project manager does the work’ are facile. But there are a number of helpful points of comparison we can make.
However, I do recommend you also look at my two videos,
Differences between Product Management and Project Management
Firstly, it is certainly true that product managers have a role in determining the strategy for their product, while project managers’ role is to execute the strategy of their client or sponsor. However, we could also argue that project managers have a role in determining the strategy by which they will deliver the outcomes for their client or sponsor.
Both product and project managers have a role in determining what features will go into the product or service they are responsible for. However, the product manager usually has a significant say in determining the final feature set, whereas the project manager’s role is to facilitate the decision process among stakeholders.
Both product and project managers also need to be mindful of the complex interplay among schedule, cost, value, quality, feature set, resource demands, and risk. However, it is likely that their priorities will be different and that the project manager will be led more by the priorities of their boss, client, or sponsor.
Senior product and project managers may each manage a portfolio – of products or of projects (called a program). In both cases, the responsibility will include managing the interfaces between activities, schedules, and constraints among them.
Operations vs Projects
The biggest difference is that product management is an operational role. It places a product manager in a position of stewardship for a product for their term in that role. And then, they hand over responsibility to the next product manager. They measure their success on the sales of the product and the levels of customer satisfaction it generates.
Project managers lead temporary organizations called projects. Usually, they will take on the project at the outset and see it through to the end. They measure their success by the success of the project in delivering its goals, and planned benefits, within the budget, schedule, and other constraints the client imposes.
Recommended Videos to Help with Product Manager and Project Manager Roles
Carefully curated video recommendations for you:
- The Role of a Project Manager: Project Management Responsibilities | Video
- What Goes into Being a Project Manager? | Video
- How to Become a Great Project Manager – 3 things you need | Video
- Committing to Be a Professional Project Manager | Video
- What do Good Project Managers do that Average PMs Don’t? | Video
- Top 15 Management Skills that Project Managers Need to Master | Video
- What is Product Management? …and a Product Manager? | Video
- What is New Product Development (NPD)? And How to Do it… | Video
- What is a Minimum Viable Product – MVP? | Video
Recommended Articles to Help with Product Manager and Project Manager Roles
- Do You Understand the Role of the Project Manager?
- What You Need to Know about the Project Manager Job Description
- 12 Essential Things a Project Manager Should do: How are you doing?
- Become a Better Project Manager with These 18 Proven Tips
- How to Be the Best Project Manager You Can Be
- What 12 Christmas Gifts will Make You a Better Project Manager?
What Kit does a Project Manager Need?
I asked Project Managers in a couple of forums what material things you need to have, to do your job as a Project Manager. They responded magnificently. I compiled their answers into a Kit list. I added my own.
Note that the links are affiliated.
Learn Still More
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For more of our Project Management videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management.
For more of our videos in themed collections, join our Free Academy of Project Management.