Sometimes the job descriptions of product management vs. project management can blend together. And in some cases, one person in an organization may be responsible for both product management and project management. The problem is without a true understanding of the definitions, it can be difficult to grasp the concepts as distinct from one another. Certainly, on the one hand, management is management. Whether you are managing products or a project, the general concept could be seen as the same.
Of course, where the distinction becomes important is in understanding your role managing people in relation to product management vs. project management. First, take a moment to understand the two different job roles.
Generally, product management is the field of overseeing the life cycle of a product. For our purposes, a product is defined as anything being delivered to a customer or end user, including a physical item, software application, or service. A product’s life cycle covers everything from the concept and design to marketing and selling. For that reason, project management would probably be part of the job duties of someone who is handling product management, but the opposite may not be true.
A product manager often works with multiple departments across their organization. For example, a product manager at a software company would likely work with the engineering team to make sure they implement the features that customers are looking for and work with the marketing team to figure out how to position the product in front of the right audience.
Project management involves overseeing a project, which could include designing a product, building it, and planning the marketing or sales details. Although as a project manager you may be adding your own ideas, you may also simply be monitoring and helping motivate the individual or team responsible for making the project happen. Project managers are typically responsible for determining what resources are required to complete the project, and from there they make sure the project gets done on time and on budget.
What’s the Big Difference?
The bottom line is that a good manager of either kind will know and understand the differences in product management vs. project management. One of the biggest differences is that a product manager often has the long-term goal of improving the manner in which a product’s life cycle carries out. This could mean better design, more efficient production, better marketing or improved sales of the product.
A project manager, on the other hand, has smaller individual goals. This doesn’t mean the goals are any less important. It just means instead of your entire career focusing on the one goal of bettering the life cycle of one product, you have shorter goals and more of them.
You may also be the product manager overseeing the type of projects previously mentioned, such as designing the product, improving productivity, launching a marketing campaign, or coming up with an unbeatable sales pitch. Either way, once the project is complete, the goal has been met and the next goal becomes the focus.
The other thing to keep in mind is that in the position of one of these roles, you may be working with someone in the other role. To keep things running smoothly and successfully, it is as important to establish a good working relationship with this other person as it is your own staff. Working together and establishing a good line of communication can only benefit both project manager and production manager.