Product Manager Vs. Project Manager. Who Does What And When?
The product manager vs project manager confusion has been raging for a while now. With businesses using these positions interchangeably, it can get murkier to differentiate one from the other!
While both positions are that of leadership and management, they are quite distinct. One can say that they are two sides of the same coin, as several qualities that they possess tend to overlap. So what makes them similar and what sets them apart? Who does what, and when? Let’s take a look:
Product vs. Project
Before identifying the managerial positions, let us first examine the differences between product and project.
Broadly, a product could be anything right from a software or a service to a physical product or an item. It serves a specific purpose for a targeted group of individuals.
A product undergoes a developmental stage right from conceiving the product to market release to growth and diversification of the product. Eventually, after a point where the product cannot mature any further, it will retire and be no longer needed.
On the other hand, a project is a highly specific task, which is a one-time thing to achieve a particular goal. It can be a smaller unit of a product or an entire component that contributes to its functioning.
Projects are characterized by a starting date and an end date with several checkpoints to measure its progress. Every project goes through the process of initiation, strategizing and planning, execution, control and tracking, and closure. The timeline is well-defined, and once it reaches the end date, the project is deemed complete.
From a cursory glance at above, it becomes apparent that a product is a longer, more detailed version of a project. Several projects come together to build a product. Further, the lifecycle of a product is much longer and diverse than that of a project.
Who is a Product Manager?
A Product Manager is the strategic leader of the product. They are the ones who envision the product and take it to its logical conclusion. Thus, it is a position of high responsibility where one cannot afford to falter.
Typically, the responsibilities of a product manager include:
- Conducting market research to discover the viability of the product.
- Discussing customer pain points and recording these observations.
- Targeting the pain points that the product can address.
- Checking out the feasibility of the product.
- Drafting the main purpose and key features of the product.
- Creating a roadmap for product development.
- Involving the technical team, company executives, and key stakeholders to ensure the timely development of the product.
- Coordinating with other team leaders to ensure continuity in the product development process.
- Working with sales and marketing to devise strategies for the product launch.
- Ensuring that the product is a roaring success.
Who is a Project Manager?
On the other hand, a Project Manager occupies a more tactical role in the development of a segment of the product. They have to develop the project in line with the timetable prescribed by the Product Manager. As a result, they work closely with the Product Manager and offer regular updates and inputs on the progress and development of the project.
The primary goal of a Project Manager can be broken down into the following tasks:
- Breaking down the entire project into smaller tasks and objectives for the team to take on one at a time.
- Risk assessment and management at the early stages to overcome any future risks that will lead to project delay or failure.
- Allocation of project resources along with team planning to ensure that the project takes off by the start date and concludes with the desired result on the end date.
- Managing the scope of the project so that the trio of time, quality, and budget can be effectively managed.
Product Manager vs. Project Manager
Here, we will note down the similarity and differences between a product manager and project manager:
1. The Similarities
At the surface, one can observe that both the positions are that of the manager, and they will have to coordinate with different teams, handle resources, and stick to timelines. Thus, there would naturally be certain similarities between the positions, which can be summarized as below:
- Both have to break down the product or project development roadmap into smaller achievable goals and assign timelines against them.
- They have to identify skilled individuals who can tackle the short-term obstacles and find a suitable solution.
- Product managers and project managers will have to address the hurdles that come with developing the product/project.
- They rely on similar characteristics and soft skills to motivate their team, report on their progress and convince the stakeholders. Thus, common skills include listening, communicating, organizing, and cheering the product/project.
2. The Differences
While they may share certain traits, the role of a product manager is more people-centric while that of a project manager is more tech-centric. And the difference between the two is evident by the product manager salary versus the project manager salary too.
However, there are far more differences between the two that come to play; these include:
- Product managers have to conduct market research and prepare viability reports to support their claim. Project managers rely on data to manage and define their actions.
- Product managers define the overall timeline of the product, which has flexibility and room for revisions. Project managers have to stick to a clearly defined timeline.
- Product managers will be involved at every step of the product development, right from the initial pitching of the idea to the selling of the product. Project managers are only involved until they deliver the desired results.
- Product managers may only be involved with a single product all their lives. Project managers continue working with the company, even on different products and projects.
- The role of a product manager is more long-term, while project managers occupy a short-term role.
As one can see from above, a Product Manager is very different from a Project Manager in several aspects. While you may save on capital by combining the two roles together, you would need an exceptional candidate who can meet the requirements for both the positions.
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