So, I gotta clear this out: Product Management IS NOT Project Management (and vice-versa) If I had a quarter for every time I was asked what the difference between Product and Project Management is....I'd still be paying off my student loans 🙁 (shameless plug to reduce tuition fees!)
People have had a harder time figuring this one out over figuring out where my accent is from (and this is no easy feat) To be honest, I don't blame them (for the Product vs Project bit - not the accent bit. Screw them, I'm not the one with the accent - they are)
Well, the truth is that these roles are exceedingly different, yet used interchanging. In fact, even the most tech-savvy companies tend to blur the lines between these roles. It’s quite understandable though and I’ll get into why in a bit. First, let’s draw distinction & define the two roles in the simplest way we can:
- Product Managers ask ‘Why?’ and ‘What?
- Project Managers ask 'When?' and 'Who?'
A Product Manager is deeply rooted in vision, feature prioritization, customer interactions and marketing of the product. The success of a Product Manager is dictated by the bigger picture - the product roadmap & lifecycle. His role revolves around asking questions like ‘What’s the business value of this feature?’ ‘Does this feature solve a problem? If so, what problem?’ ‘What’s the business impact?’ ‘What are our competitors doing that we aren’t and vice versa?..and why? ‘
A Project Manager, on the other hand, is responsible for executing on a predefined objective. Now, these objectives are broken down in
- Putting it all together
The Product Manager is responsible for setting direction and leadership. He will work cross-functionally with the engineering, sales & marketing team in order to execute on product development and selling it after. He will work hard to communicate vision & goals of the product. The Project Manager will execute upon these goals and overall vision. The Project Manager will work across teams in a much broader sense to ensure the resource availability & timelines of the goals are met.
Often, especially in smaller companies, you’ll find the Product Manager taken on the tasks of a Project Manager. While this can definitely work, it is not the ideal situation since there is often a conflict of interest. More importantly - it’s extremely difficult to perform exceedingly well in your Product Management duties and also doing so in your Project Management duties. Under-performance (and/or burnout) is
Hopefully this post will clear things out :)