According to The State of Project Management Report, nearly 50% of the stated projects are managed by a manager. These projects are owned by high-maturity organizations that have an 89% lower risk of missing project deadlines and a 70% lower risk of facing project scope creep. Also, such organizations have a 70% higher chance of reaching all the project goals, as Pulse of the Profession Report reveals.

As we see, the role of managers in successful project completion is crucial. However, being a manager is not a single-point profession. There are many branches of management, and each is dedicated to a particular aspect, factor, or part of the project work. In this paper, we will focus on the distinction between product manager vs. project manager, discuss the differences and similarities between these two roles, and help you decide what expert to outsource to your team.

Products vs. Projects

Product management and project management go in line but have a lot of differences. To understand the distinctive features of each notion, let’s first draw the difference between what forms the core of these two terms — product and project.

Product: It’s the thing offered to market to solve particular problems, users’ needs, or challenges. Product creation is a multi-step process that involves idea conceptualization, market research, product development and testing, product maintenance and support, and other stages. Products are managed by a product team that is responsible for maintaining the demand for it on the market. To keep the product in high demand, they should implement various marketing methods and continuously enhance the solution.

Project: Projects are not offered to the market; a project is a way to organize and manage the work to bring the product idea to life. A project does not mean the same as a product or service — the latter is the result of the project. Projects are limited in time, scope, and goals. The overall task of people involved in project work is to complete their tasks and start the next milestone and repeat this cycle until the project is finished.  As a result of successful project completion, a new product or service appears on the market. A product or service development can be broken down into multiple projects, each devoted to a particular aspect of a product or service.

One more difference between these two notions lies in the fact that a project usually has its beginning and its end defined initially. In the case of a product, the task of business entrepreneurs is to help it stay on the market for as long as possible. Thus, they typically do not define the timeline for product existence and strive to turn it into an ever-green and relevant solution.

Product Management vs. Project Management

Product management: It involves all the processes and procedures associated with the planning and creation of a product. Product management also includes risk analysis, demand forecasting, and marketing of a product.

Project management: This is the combination of processes, methodologies, techniques, skills, and knowledge applied to reach project goals. Project management streamlines the work on a project and helps the project team distribute resources effectively.

The difference between project management vs. product management lies in the fact that project management covers a particular stage of product creation. For example, projects can be dedicated to product promotion or software development. At the same time, product management is a broader term covering a product’s growth from start to finish and typically consists of numerous projects.

Who Is a Product Manager?

In the comparison of project manager vs. product manager, product managers are people who take full responsibility for the product’s emergence, evolution, and commercial growth. To cope with their role, a bunch of skills and a lot of expertise is needed. They need a deep understanding of the market and target audience, time management and problem-solving skills, leadership skills, a 360-degree view of a product and its future, etc.

The main task of a product manager is to enable a product to grow and succeed in the market. They answer the questions “What and why?”, while project managers answer the question “How?” Product managers strive to bring more revenue to business owners and help them retain their clients.

project manager vs product manager

To understand the difference between a product manager and a project manager, let’s compare their tasks. The tasks of a certified product manager include:

  • Research client demands and interests and leverage this knowledge when conceptualizing the product;
  • Develop a solid product strategy and a product roadmap;
  • Cooperate with sales and marketing teams to bring the most return from a product and increase user satisfaction.

The technical skills required from a product manager include data analysis, market assessment, price modeling, basic knowledge and understanding of UI/UX, business expertise, and more. Data analysis and market assessment skills are useful when researching the market and audience and collecting insights. A product manager should know how to use data analytics software to collect and interpret data. The data will help them make informed decisions on the product’s growth.

Price modeling skills are needed to detect patterns in user behavior, competitor strategies, and demand dynamics. With this knowledge, a product manager will make data-driven decisions when creating a competitive pricing strategy. A basic understanding of UI/UX will help such a professional align the product’s visual look and features with the client’s demands. Finally, business expertise will form the ground of their professional competence and help product managers market a new product to earn loyal clients.

Who Is a Project Manager?

The role of a project management professional (PMP) is to make sure that the project is delivered on time and according to the goals and requirements. The task of a project manager is to plan the project out considering the deadlines, budget, capabilities, and client expectations. Each project has its beginning and end, and the journey from one point to another is fully managed and controlled by project managers.

When comparing project vs. product management, it’s important to understand the expertise of each professional. A skilled project manager knows how to distribute the resources efficiently, what expertise is needed for the project, and how to satisfy client requirements within a limited period of time. They also should be capable of risk management, particularly when it comes to the risks that rise unexpectedly. In this case, a project manager is responsible for adjusting the project to the new conditions with no loss.

product management vs project management

So, the responsibilities of a project manager may include:

  • Plan and implement a project, breaking it down into achievable tasks and stages;
  • Create a comprehensive product vision board;
  • Define the product features that will resonate with the target audience;
  • Ensure continuous delivery and improvement on the project;
  • Manage the project team and guide them in their tasks and roles;
  • Implement the best project management tips to facilitate the team’s effort;
  • Make sure that the team sticks to the deadlines and the project stays within budget;
  • Implement a variety of project management software tools that streamline and automate tasks as well as reporting;
  • Cooperate with other representatives of the management branch to facilitate the project’s growth.

Project managers at Forbytes know how to turn client ideas into project goals and achieve them efficiently. Some of your PMs work with big enterprises, while others are dedicated to startups and small businesses. For each case, we find the best expert with experience in the target industry and a deep understanding of the client’s concerns.

Below, you can see what project management services we offer. Contact us to discuss your project goals.

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How Do Product Managers and Project Managers Differ?

The role of a product vs. project manager differs in many aspects. As you already know, a project manager focuses on projects. There is a limited period when they deal with each particular project. This period ends when the project comes to an end. Then, a project manager can start another project. What’s more, they can manage numerous projects at once. Once the project goals are reached, the project is considered finished and requires minimal or no involvement from the project manager.

The situation with product managers is different. Product managers strive to ensure that a product is always in demand. Thus, their work on a product is not limited in time. They work on its growth continuously. Even when a product is already launched and all the project goals are achieved, product managers do not quit their role. They keep managing the product, improving it, and making it even more interesting to the target users.

Both product and project managers might cooperate with the product development team and with the rest of the management staff. The vision for the product developed by a product manager is strategy-focused, while the vision of a project manager might be more goal-focused. Still, these roles can be perfectly combined in one project. In the next section, we will figure out how to do this.

project vs product manager

If you are interested in other managerial roles in software development projects, check out our recent article on what functional management is and discover how functional managers facilitate the effort of cross-functional teams.

How Do Product Managers and Project Managers Work Together?

Although we contrast the roles of project vs. product manager, it’s important to know how they can be combined. Frequently, a project manager and a product manager are involved in the same project and work together. Let’s see what it looks like by discussing the example.

Suppose that there is a retail company selling appliances. They want to build an application for their customers to purchase the products online. In that case, the company will need the help of both a product manager and a project manager. A product manager will be responsible for the application as a whole. In other words, a product manager will define the goals of the app and think out the customer needs that this app will satisfy. Besides, a product manager’s role will be to develop the product growth strategy for this application and find ways to promote the new product on the market.

At the same time, the project manager will take care of the processes and procedures needed to achieve all these goals. Project managers will break down the goals into actionable steps, each consisting of the tasks to complete. A project manager may and should distribute the tasks among the team and enable the creation of engaging application features.

If we compare the roles of a product manager vs. project manager in this example, we will see that the product manager is focused on the result of the work (which is an application), while the project manager focuses more on the processes and efforts that lead to such a result.

So, the role of a project manager and a product manager can successfully coexist within one team. What’s more, their cooperation facilitates the project growth and helps businesses make sure that their product meets user expectations.

Career Paths of a Product Manager and a Project Manager

The roles of product vs. project management have a lot in common. For both, gaining experience is essential.

To become a product manager, you should graduate from college and get a degree. Apart from the core skills, product managers should also possess a deep understanding of the modern market and the dynamic client needs. For becoming a product manager, they may also get a background in marketing or business operations.

Meanwhile, project managers often start with some other roles and move up the career ladder. For example, there can be an experienced software engineer who is a team leader and manages some aspects of the project. Then, to become a project manager, this engineer starts to assist a project manager and gradually moves towards this role.

Both fields are flexible and promising. There are no strict rules or demands imposed on project managers and product managers. Often, these can be people with a degree that has nothing to do with management. However, their skills and expertise are so valued by their teammates that these people quickly take the leading positions on the projects, becoming either product managers or project managers.

Conclusion on Project Management and Product Management

Now, you know the difference between a project manager and a product manager. Both roles are important, but they satisfy different client requests and regulate different processes. The knowledge gained from this piece will help you decide what expert you need in your team.

Contact us if you have questions on the differences between product and project managers or would like to get a personalized consultation about these roles. Here at Forbytes, we employ professionals who focus on products, projects, operations, and our clients’ needs. After discovering and studying your business request, we will give you advice on the ideal team composition in your case.

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