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Product vs Project Management

Main differences
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Management is a key aspect of the business. Depending on the case, it can be divided into two types — product and project management. The two terms are often confused with each other and used interchangeably which undeniably is a big mistake. While people exercising the two types of management are both referred to as “PMs,” they perform vastly different duties.

What’s product management?

According to Atlassian, product management is “an organizational function that guides every step of a product’s lifecycle — from development to positioning and pricing — by focusing on the product and its customers first and foremost.” Product managers closely listen to the market to ensure that the company and the team most involved in developing, launching, and bettering the product best meet the needs and wants of the target audience.

The key activities of a product manager include:

  • vision development
  • market research and customer understanding
  • strategy development
  • execution and testing.

What’s project management?

As depicted by the Project Management Institute (PMI), project management refers to “the use of specific knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to deliver something of value to people.” Whether it’s a building construction or software development, they’re all projects that need to be management throughout the course of their implementation.

The key activities of a project manager include:

  • planning
  • organization
  • leading
  • implementation
  • analysis.

Project management

Key differences between product and project management

The overarching difference between product and project management can be summarized in just one sentence: “While a product manager sets the vision, goals, and business trajectory of a product, a project manager leads the many projects to make those goals a reality.” (according to Coursera)

Innovation

In project management, innovation is usually not tied to the business operating system, while project managers strongly focus on the system and the customers.

Budgeting

In project management, past performance and indicators play a huge role. Therefore, budgeting efforts heavily rely on last year’s budgets. In product management, however, budgets are driven by opportunities and are similar to venture-based investments.

Planning

Needless to say, in project management, planning will solely depend on project plans and resources. Product managers, however, take into consideration all business operating systems that will be influenced by the selected plan.

Measurements

Project managers make use of return on investment (ROI) to measure their performance, while product managers utilize marginal business value from investments to do so.

Main differences in the key functions of product and project managers

It’s important to keep in mind that product and project managers, once again, perform different duties and, therefore, are involved in different activities.

Project manager

Project managers turn initiatives into tasks. They determine the project timelines, allocate the resources, monitor the performance, and communicate the progress to stakeholders.

Product manager

Product managers are involved in a lot of research. They establish the product vision, communicate it to stakeholders, create strategic plans, as well as develop and maintain the product roadmap.

Product management

These and many more difference distinguish product managers from project managers. The biggest commonality between the two is the successful outcome that’s targeted the most. Both are are result-oriented, implement ideas, manage teams, communicate a lot, advocate for customers, and track performance.