In many organizations including tech companies, we often have both a product manager and a project manager. Interestingly, many people confuse these two managers whose titles share the first three letters.
Both are abbreviated as PM and many agree their roles have often been mixed up countless times. In numerous organizations, the duties and responsibilities of the two managers overlap compared to other roles.
The truth is product managers and project managers have completely different roles. Smaller companies, however, find it feasible to combine the two roles together but this only works well for simple projects. We have cases where a product manager also doubles up as the project manager.
Larger and complex projects that take a long time with many staff involved achieving better results when the product manager and project manager roles are separated.
So, what are the differences between a product manager and a project manager? The differences between the two jobs are explained based on the following comparison parameters.
Software Used is Different
For starters, from a software perspective, product managers and project managers use different applications that are specifically designed to perform various roles and serve diverse business needs.
The core role of product management software is to enable a product manager plan, develop and share the product strategy with other members of the team. On the other hand, project management software helps project managers to keep an eye on how the product strategy is executed.
Supervisory and Management
The differences between a product manager and project manager are illustrated in the way these managers execute their supervisory roles. A product manager is fully in charge of their own product and their key role involves setting the strategy, defining product features, planning for releases and consulting with to-be users of the product.
In summary, a product manager is responsible for overseeing the entire process of the product they are developing. The goal is to deliver a product that fully meets user expectations.
A project manager’s role is to take charge of a fixed project from the start to finish. Their job is to ensure the strategy set by the product manager is successfully executed. Their role is time-bound so they have to work with set timelines and deadlines.
Project managers can supervise single or multiple projects spanning across various products so they’re not necessarily restricted to a single product. Project managers are also expected to provide leadership to the rest of the team with different skills and ensure projects are completed on time and within the defined budget allocations.
Both product managers and project managers have their responsibilities clearly defined in line with the goals they wish to attain. A lot of confusion begins at this point as many people are often unable to clearly differentiate the precise roles for the two managers. This is an in-depth look at what each of the managers does.
Product Manager Job Description
As explained earlier, a product manager sets the product strategy but what does this mean?
The strategy covers a product’s entire life cycle and product managers are expected to remain focused on the main goal by putting place initiatives that will help attain the set goals. To make it happen, product managers have to take charge and own different stages of product development and ensure each step is comprehensively addressed.
Questions that a product manager must answer include: What product are you developing? What problem does it solve? And who are the beneficiaries? The key areas a product manager deals with include;
- Defining the strategy
- Setting product features
- Organizing and planning for releases
- Brainstorming ideas and transforming them into workable solutions
- Doing market research and talking to prospective product users to understand and document their requirements
- Train other team members on how to use the product
- Carry out financial projections i.e. analyze profit and loss pertaining to the product
Project Manager Job Description
Project managers are not so concerned with attaining specific goals for a product – that’s the work of a product manager. Instead, project managers pick up the initiatives and activities related to a product and develop a timeline while putting into considerations all the resource constraints and risks.
It is the responsibility of a project manager to know which resources are needed and how the project will be accomplished. They also form teams and assign tasks to each team while keeping a close eye on the progress of the project.
Project managers are tasked with the following responsibilities:
- Coordinating, management and allocation of budgets for the project
- Managing of resources associated with a project
- Capacity building
- Organization of teams both internally and externally
- Resolving any problems that may arise in the course of the project
- Regularly updating on the status of a project
- Deliver the outcome and goals at the end of the project
Both product managers and project managers work closely together especially in large organizations. The product manager works together with cross-functional teams such as customer support, engineering and development as well as sales and marketing all focused on the product being developed.
During collaboration, the product manager is supposed to clearly define the scope of every step of the product life cycle. The project manager also works with various teams but specifically implements all the plans regarding a product and brings them to life.
When a project manager is done with a project, they move onto the next project, but a product manager has to continuously remain actively involved with the product they created. Product quality assurance is also left to the project manager to deal with.
Both product managers and project managers play a key role in an organization as their duties are critical. When their roles are aligned and coordinated well, they can deliver exceptionally well even though their core mandates aren’t the same.
In many business set-ups, they are often considered a powerful duo that drives change in an organization. Their duties and responsibilities complement each other and having them work side by side is a definite and strategic advantage for any company.