Some organizations have adopted project management methodology to develop products according to defined scopes, budgets and timelines. Once a project, such as release 1 of an application, is completed, the work on release 2 is planned as part of another project. For continuity-sake, the project manager assigned to release 2 gets appointed program manager and may manage related projects.
So, are there any issues with this approach to managing products and what can product management bring to the mix?
Simply put, project manager are not product manager; project managers cannot focus on the product itself and perform project management functions at the same time. Focus in the operative word in the previous sentence. It is not that project managers cannot develop the skills required to become product managers– sure they can – however, the role of project management is very important with its own responsibilities and to try to do both, although not impossible (and it does work in small or start-up organizations), it can be a challenge, especially so for complex projects with a lot of stakeholders.
The product manager’s functions, such as monitor changes in the market, gather information from users of the product, manage the product life cycle, interface with product marketing for positioning of their product, pitch their product at conferences, and so forth, are compromised when project managers attempt to perform them. In organizations without product managers, successes of products are at risk when only project managers are responsible for them.
Markets are in constant flux. New products are launched everyday and competitors are quick to copy a product or launch a new or a better version of an existing product. Product managers wake up every morning thinking about their products. On the other hand, project managers wake up every morning thinking about the project’s constraints, how to remove barriers for the project to move forward and the need to keep stakeholders informed on a project’s status.
The roles are complimentary but one cannot replace the other.
Do you work or have your worked for an organization where project managers perform product management functions? Your feedback to this post would be appreciated.