It would help if you had consistent and competent leadership to steer your plans in today's competitive business environment. Project management and product management are two extremely important but separate jobs frequently misconstrued by company executives at all levels.
Project vs Product
To resolve these disparities, let us first define the product and project.
It could be useful to distinguish between goods and initiatives. A product is any service or item created by an organization to meet client demand. Physical things like furniture or clothing could be physical or digital, like an app or a website video feature.
On the other hand, a project is a set of tasks completed to achieve a certain goal. A project's goal might be to create or sustain a product, like building a house or delivering a significant software update.
A product may be anything from a physical object to software or a service that serves the needs of a certain set of people. It has a life cycle in which it is produced and offered to the market, grows in acceptability until it matures, and is decommissioned when it is no longer required.
An undertaking to create a good or service is known as a project. It also specifies a precise outcome and a start and end date. It typically involves five stages: planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closing.
Here's what distinguishes them: the timeframe. A product, unlike a project, is not a one-time undertaking. Instead, it develops and adapts to the demands of the current user to demonstrate its value and escape retirement. As a result, it may include various activities aimed at preserving, enhancing, or diversifying it.
Product Management Vs Project Management
It's typical for individuals to mix product managers with project managers - even within businesses requiring both, such as software. Any product manager or project manager will tell you they've been referred to as such more times than they can count. However, the responsibilities are vastly different.
Product management and project management are frequently used interchangeably. Its practitioners are commonly referred to as "PMs" by various persons. However, they are quite diverse professions that necessitate their own set of talents and equipment.
Product managers and project managers sometimes collaborate, although their jobs are separate. While a product manager establishes a product's vision, goals, and commercial trajectory, a project manager oversees the numerous initiatives that make those ambitions a reality.
The product manager is a problem solver, whereas the project manager is a doer.
Product managers are in charge of product development. They prioritize projects and make strategic judgments regarding what will be built.
They are frequently referred to as the CEO of a line of products since they are concerned with corporate objectives, quantifiable targets, and good outcomes.
Product managers sit at the crossroads of the company's goals, the needs of its consumers, and the teams developing solutions to those requirements and objectives. It is an external and internal function that manages up and down and crosses technical, commercial, and operational domains.
On the other hand, project managers supervise previously authorized and prepared plans. They oversee programs and resources to complete tasks but have little say in defining and prioritizing goals and projects. Project managers are in charge of getting things done.
Their engagement with an effort does not begin until everything is determined, but once it is in their hands, they play an important role in making it all happen.
They play an important role in developing the strategy and ensuring that it goes off without a hitch, from planning to resource deployment to financial planning to quality control.
But, besides having an acronym, there are certain parallels between these two jobs. Both are cross-functional, interacting with different groups within the wider corporation and stakeholders.
Both face the issue of having responsibility without authority because they seldom oversee the personnel they're assembling for the assignment. And neither can accomplish their jobs without excellent communication and alignment.
How they disseminate information, including the time, structure, and tools, substantially impacts their overall success. Both can benefit from adopting roadmaps to assist them in overcoming this obstacle.
Product software vs project software
Product and project management software are separate technologies developed to assist with various company objectives.
The fundamental difference is that product management software assists product managers in organizing, developing, and communicating product strategy. Project management software assists project managers (and others responsible for product development) in tracking strategy execution.
Product Management Software
Product management software aids in the tracking of high-level needs, the documentation of the product vision, the communication of the strategy, the establishment of priorities and rough deadlines, and the indication of high-level estimations. However, there are several project management solutions available for product managers to employ.
These methods help product managers divide huge strategic goals into smaller, more doable tasks. They can also assist product managers in communicating more effectively and delivering updated information on their things.
Software Product Roadmap
Product roadmap software is a form of product management software that communicates the product strategy — the goals and the timeline required to achieve them. It frequently displays product efforts alongside the company's existing goods.
The finest product roadmap software products provide visual, easy-to-understand roadmaps based on task-specific templates.
These tools frequently create roadmaps for CEOs and other high-level stakeholders to get buy-in for product projects.
Product roadmap software, such as Product Plan, enables the product manager to create and deliver a clear vision to several audiences. This plan and set of criteria bring the product to life by retaining the emphasis on a strategic level.
Software for Project Management
Project management software is a tactical tool for tracking and managing all aspects of a project. Consider project management software, the device utilized when a product (or project or other endeavours) has been given the go-ahead.
In other words, if a product manager utilizes product roadmap software to gain executive approval to develop a new product, a project manager may use project management software (such as Atlassian JIRA) to create and implement a thorough development plan.
This program assists project managers in capturing and sharing all ground-level facts such as deadlines, tasks, subtasks, jobs finished and jobs outstanding, assets required, and team member involvement.
However, large-scale projects, such as big IT efforts, might benefit from their roadmap, especially when there are many development paths. It is critical to select the appropriate instrument for the job. Finally, successful businesses require both product management and project management software.
What is the role of a product manager?
A product manager is in charge of a product from its inception to its end of life. This means they create the concept for a product, direct any modifications, and ensure that the development satisfies consumer expectations until it has been terminated.
Product management, unlike project management, generally does not have a distinct beginning and finish.
Product managers in larger firms might take on high-level tasks such as team management. On the other hand, a product manager in a smaller business may conduct more hands-on work, such as market research or project management.
Specific activities might vary greatly because product management is a relatively new profession that can shift from business to firm and team to team. However, in general, a product manager will perform the following:
Key measures for product managers are
- Identifies and relays to the product team the needs of the consumer. Creates and pursues product strategy in collaboration with cross-functional teams, including engineering, design, and marketing.
- Discovering techniques to improve or extend a product through market study and other research.
- Maintains an eye on product performance.
- New product features are tested and monitored.
- Competitors are being watched.
A few other functions of product managers are
- Gathering customer satisfaction data: Data collected through reviews and surveys may be used to guide product development and assess product performance.
- Creating a product roadmap: A action plan explains a product's strategy, goals, and progress through time and aids in the organization of deliverables.
- Obstacles to a successful product plan: Time inefficiencies and a lack of resources might stymie completion timelines.
- Prioritizing product releases: When numerous launches are taking place at the same time, product managers must prioritize products based on profits, rate of success, and project requirements.
- Keeping up with market developments and competitors: By projecting product demands early in market research, your firm will be well-positioned for success.
- Managing a product release backlog: A product backlog is a list of product updates, new features, and development problems. It aids in the documentation and communication of discrepancies during a new release.
What does a project manager do?
A project manager oversees a project from start to finish. A project is a collection of tasks meant to accomplish a specified purpose. Projects might be large, such as the construction of a new building, or modest, such as introducing a new tool for a team to utilize.
A project manager is someone who plans these initiatives by forming groups, establishing timelines, managing finances, and interacting with stakeholders until they are done. A project usually has a distinct starting and finish point.
Project managers can do the following tasks:
- Determine crucial milestones such as project scope, timing, and budget projections.
- Extensive collaboration and communication with leaders and stakeholders
- Create and manage processes for project modifications.
- To keep track of work and schedules, use project management software.
- Ensure that teams work effectively together and are motivated and on time.
A few other functions of project managers are
- Communicating with team members: Project managers must have strong communication skills to connect and cooperate with multiple teams.
- Using and implementing project management tools: Tools for project management help projects go forward by keeping track of their progress and enhancing visibility into who is doing what and when.
- These tools are owned and controlled by the project manager.
- Delegating and tracking project tasks: Task delegation entails assigning, tracking, and completing tasks.
- Tracking strategy KPIs that contribute to business goals: Project managers are in charge of tracking project performance to make sure the project is on schedule to accomplish program objectives.
- Project resource and priority scoping: Managers conduct resource and priority scope evaluations to establish project relevance before starting a project.
- Leading team meetings: Meetings must be scheduled and led for strategic planning and project scoping reasons. Project managers may conduct project kickoffs, daily standups, or biweekly syncs, depending on the project's complexity.
- Sharing project timelines: Project managers exchange time projections using a timeline tool like a Gantt chart to make sure that everyone is on the same page. This is possible with the critical route approach, which uses a specific formula to compute timeframes.
How do product managers and project managers work together?
Product managers collaborate with project managers frequently. What would this look like in practice? Consider the following example.
Consider an internet furniture retailer. They intend to build an app allowing users to browse merchandise on mobile devices. The organization may engage a product manager to oversee the app's development.
The product manager will establish the app's goals, select which features it should include, lead a team of product developers, and monitor new difficulties as they occur.
The organization may appoint a project manager to make these objectives a reality. For example, assume the product manager discovers that customers prefer to consult with family before making a purchase and decides to make this a main feature of the app.
A project manager may oversee a project to launch an app feature that allows users to share furnishings they like via a messaging network.
The project manager may assemble a team devoted to the new feature, establish a production plan, and ensure that the team completes the project on time and under budget. Meanwhile, they may talk with the product manager twice weekly to provide progress reports.
Do product managers or project managers make more money?
In the United States, product managers typically make more money than project managers. The average salary of a product manager in the United States is $111,755 per year, while the average pay for a project manager is $87,637, according to Glassdoor figures from August 2021.
Becoming a product manager vs project manager
There is a big overlap between the responsibilities of project and product managers. However, there are significant distinctions.
There are many career pathways available for product managers and project managers. Product and project managers can advance to become the other; the paths to both positions are relatively similar.
Although some people may start as product managers directly out of college, it is more typical to develop skills and experience first. For example, you may come across product managers with business operations or marketing backgrounds because they need a great awareness of both business and customer expectations. Product managers may advance to become senior product managers or product vice presidents.
On the other hand, project managers typically start in the business. For example, a software development manager may have formerly worked as a software developer. They might also begin as a project assistant or project coordinator. Product managers, project management directors, and senior project managers can all be promoted from project managers.
However, remember that these two sectors are quite versatile and relatively young. As a result, there is no single path to becoming a project or product manager.
Human skills, sometimes soft skills, are critical for product and project managers. You will also require some advanced technological skills.
Product Manager abilities:
- Data examination
- Market analysis
- Price forecasting
- Basic user experience (UX) understanding
- Fundamental business knowledge
Project Manager abilities:
- Understanding of project management methodologies such as Scrum, Agile, and Waterfall
- Risk administration
- Asana and Gantt charts are examples of project management software.
- Budgeting fundamentals
Can you handle the roles simultaneously?
We can see from a quick assessment of their tasks and responsibilities that product managers deal with technical challenges and are thus outside-focused. Meanwhile, project managers deal with more functional difficulties and work internally.
Product managers are concerned with the what and why, whereas project managers are concerned with the how and when. Product managers, we may presume, can also be project managers. But the question that arises is whether they should.
Let's look at the issues that might occur from overlapping both roles:
- Reduced focus - Product managers are externally oriented. Their everyday tasks may include speaking with clients, doing usability testing, following the sales staff during customer contacts, and visiting fair events. All these activities take place outside of the office, making it difficult to keep an eye on the product vision and the development team.
- Inadequate skills - Product managers may lack technical knowledge, leaving them at the mercy of developers when calculating how long each activity will take to complete.
- Potential bottlenecks - A bottleneck in the shape of a single person on whom the success of the product and project is dependent. There are far too many stakes against a product manager who assumes all risks.
As with most small businesses, having someone wear both hats may be viable. However, as the project becomes more complicated, spans a longer timetable, and involves personnel from several departments and geographical places, it is advisable to split them.
Product managers bring value by concentrating on the product vision in this way. Meanwhile, project managers oversee project execution and guarantee that a high-quality product is delivered on time and within budget.
Speaking of budgets, knowing how lucrative a project is—using project estimates, regular monitoring, and project profitability formulas—is critical to both positions.
Project and product management are ideas that are related. Both are issue solvers, but understanding how these notions vary is essential for creating a successful product. Only by doing so can you ensure that your company objectives are met.
Internally, project management focuses on achieving particular objectives and completing a project on schedule and under budget. When a project is finished, it is no longer managed.'
Product Management gives a broader perspective and focuses on the customer and the project's overall and ongoing success.
Although one individual can fulfil both management positions, it is preferable to split these jobs to minimize potential conflict of interest and lack of performance. This also enables for better allocation of resources and a more precise project timeframe.
After all, product managers and project managers make a formidable team despite the uncertainty and overlap in expertise. Their characteristics complement one another and ensure a company's long-term success. If you treat them well, they will take care of your business.
Many people confuse the two professions of project management and product management. However, they are different in many ways. A product manager is responsible for the overall success of a product or service. A project manager is responsible for all aspects of a specific project, including its scope, timeline and cost. Both roles require skills in leadership, negotiation and time management. Both roles offer advancement opportunities and both will continue to grow in popularity over the next few years.