Project and Product Management represent two separate functions each with its own goals and reasons to exist. Having said that, the functions do have similarities but they also have important differences. At a high level, Project Managers ensure the work is planned, executed and delivered according to the scope, within budget and on time. Product Managers, on the other hand, are responsible for ensuring products are created, tested and delivered so that they meet customers’ requirements. The creation, planning, development and launch of a new product is one project or a combination of projects. Once a product is launched to market, the Product Manager manages the product through its life cycle whereas the Project Manager moves to another project.
In my opinion, here are the 5 main differences between Project and Product Management:
1) Projects have a clear beginning and an end – Products are an ongoing effort until their end of life.
2) Good Project Management does not need passion for the product to move the team to deliver what is required. Good Product Management requires passion and ownership of the product.
3) Project Management has clear methodology and a certification process. There are best practices for Product Management but no methodology.
4) Project Managers are concerned with staying within budget – Product Managers are concerned with cost to develop the product and/or feature (investment) as well as the potential revenue (the whole business case). Normally, Product Managers are responsible for the product’s P&L and must ensure the product is profitable.
5) Project Managers are not normally as intimate with a product’s customers as Product Managers are but there are exceptions to this. Some Project Managers manage the installation or customization of products for specific customers. In this instance, a Project Manager could become even more intimate with a customer than a Product Manager would. The Product Manager must look at the market as a whole and not single out one customer so the product must benefit the organization (profitability) and the target market(s) for the long term; the Product Manager should not be steered in her decisions by one specific customer.
Can you think of other main differences between Project and Product Management? Let me know!