Although they both work on the same product, product managers and project managers are responsible for different things, and their roles vary significantly. In this article, we’re going to identify five crucial differences between project managers and product managers.
Shortly put, a product manager is responsible for designing and developing a new product. It’s a strategic-slash-visionary role. A product manager works with the product throughout its entire lifecycle, from designing, updating, and modifying to withdrawing it from the market.
On the other hand, project managers deal with just specific aspects of the product manager’s work. They turn diverse stages of work into projects that need to be executed within the agreed budget, resources, timeline, and quality.
To help you understand the difference between these two professions, we identified five essential differences. We hope that analyzing them will give you more insight into the work of a project manager and a product manager.
Product Vs. Project
Generally speaking, everything that a company can offer constitutes a product. It’s always an independent unit that an individual customer or another company can purchase.
On the other hand, a project is an endeavor with a clear purpose and requirements. For example, designing a new website featuring a given product is a project. It is always limited in time and has conditions to be fulfilled and the desired, specified outcome.
The product manager stays with their product the whole time. They are responsible for the entire lifecycle of the product, its shape, form, price, functions, and features. Product managers update and modify their products when necessary, and they ensure the product stays relevant and popular on the market for as long as possible.
On the other hand, project managers are not tied to the product. Sure, they can conduct product-related projects, but that’s it. One project manager can today work with product X and the next day – with product Y.
What Skills Do They Need
The product manager’s role is strictly strategic. They have to observe market trends, understand customer needs and respond to them. They have to know how to turn market needs into a ready-made product. They have to know how to create an initial vision of the new product and “sell it” to the company’s stakeholders.
A project manager is a typically tactical profession. Their role is to make sure the project is done and delivered on the agreed conditions, especially when it comes to the project’s cost, schedule, and quality. Nothing more.
When it comes to the product manager’s work, the outcome is always a ready-made functional product that can be put on sale. Ideally, it gets traction quickly and becomes a bestseller. When it comes to project managers, they are responsible for just a specific part of the product-related work.
For example, one of such projects could be to find out how to lower the overall production cost. In this example, our project manager is responsible just for finding a way to lower the cost of the product. The product’s success is irrelevant.
On a daily basis, product managers are responsible for product ideation, discovery, validation, delivery, growth, and pricing. They are focused on everything that involves the product they manage.
Project managers, on the other hand, deal with the project they are responsible for, communicating the results of their work to the company’s stakeholders and overseeing the work of every team member.
If you want to know more about the differences between product managers and project managers, take a look at that comprehensive article that summarises everything you need to know: https://noaignite.co.uk/blog/product-manager-vs-project-manager