Product vs. Project Management

Of course, this topic is extensive but based on some research I have recently conducted, I’ve just briefly summarised the following:

·      The difference between Product and Project

·      The difference between a Product Manager and Project Manager

Would be keen to hear your insights too, so please feel free to drop me a comment or message!

Product or Project

The two terms are often used interchangeably. So how can we define the roles of Product Manager and Project Manager, when we don’t understand the core terminology. To clarify this, here is a brief definition of each.

Product: anything from a physical product, to a software or a service that satisfies the needs of a group of users or solves an existing issue.

Project: a temporary endeavour with the aim of creating a unique product or service, which has a start and end date, as well as a defined outcome or result.

A product can only be developed within the context of a project, and multiple projects can occur within a product’s life cycle. Product development is continuous and will adapt and change direction with customer demand (which will always change). A project is finished when the desired outcome is achieved. Product development never ends. Therefore, it is timelines that set these apart.

Product Managers and Project Managers

As a very basic overview, the Product manager is an organisational function, and these people have strategic responsibility for driving the development of products. Project managers are responsible for overseeing the execution of those development plans and are responsible for the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills, and experience to achieve the objectives of a specific project.

Because Product and Project are so closely tied together, it’s unsurprising that the roles often become blurred. So, when we break these roles down, what really separates them?

Product Management:

·      Research

·      Gathering and prioritizing product and customer requirements

·      Defining the product vision

·      Communicating the vision with stakeholders

·      Developing a strategic plan

·      Creating and maintaining the product roadmap

·      Working with sales and marketing to ensure revenue and customer satisfaction goals are met

Project Management:

·      Building a product

·      Adding new features to an existing product

·      Improving or creating extensions of a product

·      Managing a team of designers and developers and managing their work

·      Managing time and budget and communicating transparently with the client

·      Using a variety of project management tools

Whilst these two roles are similar in many ways, their sets of responsibilities are very different. And each role is integral to the other.

Working Together

The two concepts may be frequently confused in a business setting, but they are fundamentally different roles working within the same space. The Product Manager is responsible for the broader view and the overarching vision, focussing on external factors like customer demand, whilst Project Managers are responsible for specific objectives and completing a given project on time and under budget.

I’ve heard that within many businesses these roles are often combined to create a dual role, but how effective is this. It sounds to me as though both of these are key roles to thorough and effective Product Delivery. I’d be keen to hear from my network about your thoughts on Product v Project, especially considering the Product market in Manchester is still relatively new and not yet matured. Drop a comment below or message me to discuss this further.