The Difference Between Product and Project Management

Everything might seem similar - product, project, project management, product management - but it is not exactly as it looks. Product management and project management are two terms that are often interchanged, but both are different disciplines that require different skills and tools to manage them. Product management and project are both complementary but distinct. To understand the difference between these two managements, you first need to learn the difference between product and project.

Product: A product is a solution offered in a market to solve a problem or satisfy a want. These may have a lifecycle that may be split into multiple stages. The stages may include conception, development, introduction and management in the market. The final steps include the retirement of the product.

Project: Project is undertaking an endeavour to introduce a new product or service in the market. Projects need to be delivered by a specified date and time.

The complementing life cycle is, a product can only be developed when a project is undertaken, and a product’s life cycle can include multiple projects.

Product Management vs Project Management
A company’s organisation function that deals in all steps, from planning to production and marketing of a product at all stages is called product management.

Application of operations, methods, experience, and skills to accomplish the specific goal of a project is called project management.

Who are product managers?
Product managers are people who undertake the entire responsibility of the whole lifecycle of a product which also includes its overall and continuous success. A product manager will focus more on ‘what’ the product will be offering than ‘how’ the product will be developed. A product manager’s job involves having a vision for the future to learn the long-term deliverability of the product. Product managers decide the product’s growth direction based on the customers’ needs. Maximising value and creating new revenue streams is the final goal of a product manager.

The responsibilities of a product manager include:

Gathering and prioritising product and customer requirements
Aligning the product’s vision
Coordinating with sales and marketing to keep a check on revenue and customer satisfaction.

Who are project managers?
Delivering the project successfully within a specific period of time and budget is the primary responsibility of a project manager. Overseeing and managing the product’s development is what a project manager does. Managing the project is done by aligning the available resource and managing the risks and issues associated with it.

One difficult task of a project manager is to manage the scope of the project. Balancing the time, cost and quality of the project is what makes it difficult. The final goal of a project manager is to maximise the quality of the product while minimising the risk.

The responsibilities of a project manager include:

- Building the product
- Making the product feature-rich
- Creating new versions and extensions for/of the product
- Tracking and managing the work of designers and developers
- Making sure the project is on time and within the budget limits.

Product managers and project managers – how do they relate?
A project manager’s role is similar to that of a midwife. Just like when a midwife takes care of the mother until the child is delivered, project managers take care of the product until the product is delivered and handed over to the product manager. A project manager manages the project, delivers it, and moves on to the next one.

The product manager is the one who conceives the idea, develops it for several months and, in the end, brings the product to the market. The product manager is responsible for the product until it becomes obsolete in the market.

Product management and project management are intertwined and are quite similar. You need to understand how these concepts differ to each other to create a successful product.

Project management has more of an internal focus, where the main objective is to achieve the specific goals and conclude the given project within the given time and budget. Once the completed project is delivered, it no longer requires ‘project management.’

Product management has a broader view and more of an external focus, where the customers are taken into consideration and the overall success of the project.

Although sometimes one person can manage both these aspects - product management and project management - it is better to separate these two entities to different people to avoid conflict of interest. Also, separate job roles will mean better productivity and performance.

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