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Product Manager vs Project Manager: What’s the Difference?

Managing products and projects is a vital part of every company’s success. However, the roles of the Product Manager vs Project Manager (both shortened as PM) are frequently misunderstood. The two managers’ job descriptions are very similar, yet their fundamental duties and responsibilities differ significantly.

On the other hand, fresh management grads often have difficulty choosing between these positions. According to their work duties, titles, talents, and wage expectations, Product and Project Managers are vastly different.

Product managers focus on creating products that people use every day. They’re responsible for making sure that the features and functions of those products meet customer needs. Project managers are in charge of managing projects, which means they oversee all aspects of a project, from planning to execution.

The difference between a product and a project

A project has a beginning and and end, a product does not. The main difference is in the mindset of how to manage the two.

There are various products, including tangible goods and services and software applications. It’s a more tangible thing with a typical lifecycle of four to five phases. These stages include its inception, design, implementation, go-to-market, growth and management, and sunsetting. Creating new products and improving existing ones is ongoing, and there is no timetable for it. In the role of a Product Manager, it is their responsibility to ensure that the product’s quality meets or exceeds consumers’ expectations.

While a project is a collection of actions to achieve a specific objective, a new product or service could be in the works. Initiation/Launch, Planning, Execution, Monitoring, and Termination are the typical stages of a project. In contrast to products, projects are one-time endeavors with a predetermined end date. In addition to finishing the task on duration and within budget, the Project Manager is responsible for the quality of the work.

A Product Manager’s responsibilities

A product manager has a lot of responsibility. He or she must make sure that the product meets the needs of customers while also ensuring that the company makes money off of it. This includes things like choosing the right features, pricing, and advertising strategies.

A product manager has the following duties:

  • Review and survey data collection are valuable methods for developing and assessing product success.
  • It is essential to have a product strategy, priorities, and progress outlined in a product roadmap so that we can set priorities for deliverables.
  • Getting around obstacles in the product plan: Inefficiencies in time and lack of resources can cause delays in project completion.
  • Multiple product launches necessitate prioritizing launches based on income, success rate, and project requirements for product managers.
  • Market research and forecasting product demand early: Your company will be well-positioned for success if you conduct market research and forecast product demand early.
  • Managing the product release backlog Changes, new features, and development issues are recorded in a product backlog. You can document and communicate any inconsistencies when you release a new version.

One of the top responsibilities of the product manager is to create a plan for the launch of the product. This includes deciding what features will be implemented, creating a budget for the project, and identifying potential problems that may arise during the development process. 

A product manager should be able to answer questions about his or her products. If a customer asks a question about a feature, the product manager should be able provide an explanation of how the feature works, why it was included, and what benefits it provides.

A product manager also has to make sure that their team is on track with making sure that they have followed all necessary steps in order to produce quality products and launch them on time.

Read more about The role of a Product Manager.

A Project manager job description

A project manager is responsible for managing one or multiple projects at once. This means he or she must coordinate with other people who work on different parts of the same project. In addition, he or she must ensure that each part of the project gets done on time and within budget.

A Project Manager’s Responsibilities

A project manager is responsible for various duties in developing, implementing, and monitoring projects. In other words, the five phases of project management and the various initiatives comprise a project’s lifecycle.

Project managers are also responsible for the following duties:

  • Project managers must communicate effectively with multiple team members to establish and maintain productive working relationships.
  • Project control software permits you to survey your progress and see who’s doing what at the right time. The project manager is in charge of these resources.
  • Project management responsibilities are delegated and tracked. Delegating tasks necessitates assigning, tracking, and overseeing the execution of those activities.
  • Tracking strategy KPIs that add to business goals: Project managers are responsible for ensuring that the project is on track to meet the project’s goals.
  • Before starting a project, project managers conduct resource and priority scope studies to determine the project’s relevance and importance to the organization.
  • For strategic and project scoping objectives, scheduling and leading meetings are critical. Project managers may conduct project kickoffs, daily standups, or biweekly syncs, depending on the project’s complexity.
  • Using a Gantt chart or other time-tracking tool allows project managers to ensure that everyone on their team has the same understanding of when each task is due. Use the critical route approach to compute project timelines using an appropriate formula.

Project Manager Challenges

Due to the role’s complexity, project managers encounter challenges comparable to those of product managers. The distinction is that project managers concentrate on finding solutions to problems with the project rather than problems with the product.

The following are some issues that a project manager could encounter:

  • Taking ownership of risks and keeping track of the Project managers are accountable for taking ownership of a risk register to keep track of and reduce any hazards to a project.
  • Maintaining control of projects It is essential to maintain control of project timetables and deliverables to guarantee that projects continue to satisfy bigger corporate goals.
  • Collaboration with product and program managers Project managers need to collaborate extensively with other teams to ensure that different efforts maintain the same level of coherence.
  • Change management in projects is analogous to monitoring hazards; project managers are responsible for monitoring changes to keep stakeholders informed.
  • Maintaining current awareness of market trends is essential for successful project management. Project managers should also maintain a current awareness of new knowledge and tools to help streamline procedures and increase the efficiency of their teams.

Is There Any Overlap Between Product manager vs Project Manager?

Project and product management overlap in responsibilities, despite what this seemingly divisive side-by-side comparison suggests.

Some tactical, task-based aspects of product development fall to the product manager, while the project manager would handle others. These scenarios require close collaboration between product and project managers. In some cases, the two may even share some of the responsibilities for task management.

On the other hand, project managers can shift from a purely tactical to a more strategic function depending on the situation.

A lot of what product managers need to know about managing projects may be applied to their work. When it comes to project management, a manager with high troubleshooting skills is nothing more than good at solving problems. Take on the position of a product manager to channel that fundamental ability to solve problems on a large scale.

You’ll need similar soft skills to succeed as a product manager or project manager. Listening, communication, organization, and product evangelism are soft critical skills for product managers and apply to project managers.

In conclusion

Product and project managers constitute an effective team even though their roles are often confused and require many of the same skills. The diversity they provide to a firm ensures that it will be successful throughout its whole existence. You will succeed if you treat them well.

What is a Product Manager?

Product managers are responsible for contributing to the definition of the product strategy and for working closely with stakeholders to develop an understanding of the stakeholders’ requirements, priorities, and needs.

Read more about what the role of a product manager and what they do

What is a Agile Project Manager

Project managers are responsible for facilitating and leading all aspects of project delivery, including planning, continuing control, and delivery. They are ultimately accountable for delivering the project on time without exceeding the budget and straying outside the specified parameters.

Can a project manager become a product manager?

Making the Switch from Project Management to Product Management (Product Management Transition) (Yes, It Is Possible) As a project manager, you may be interested in pursuing a career in product management. The fact that you’re not the only one who feels this way is encouraging. Many of the project managers we talk to are considering making the switch, and they all have similar motivations.

Sebastian Krumhausen
Sebastian Krumhausen
Sebastian is a product management coach experienced in agile product and new business development. Since 2010, Sebastian has helped companies define their digital strategies and deliver data-informed experiences by crystallising their value proposition, business model and executed their go-to-market strategy. He has previously founded two eCommerce-startups and worked with clients such as IKEA, LEGO, BEC, Coor and Ørsted.