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Product management vs project management: 5 things that make them different

Aastha KocharLast Updated: October 10, 2022

If you’ve been part of the corporate world, you might have noticed that product management and project management are interchangeably used. Although product and project managers work together to successfully execute a project, these two roles are quite distinctive in understanding and practice. So, what is the difference between product management vs project management?

A product manager is responsible for setting the product’s goal, vision, and business pathway. On the other hand, a project manager is responsible for leading the projects that make these goals a reality. Hence, a product manager is a strategic thinker, while a project manager is an executioner. 

Curious to learn more? Read on to learn in-depth about project management vs product management!

What is a product vs a project?

Before distinguishing project vs product management, it is integral to understand what exactly are project and product.

A product can be understood as any tangible or intangible entity that a company produces, from a physical object to software. It can go through a specific life cycle – from development, production, and introduction to acceptance, and retirement. 

A project is a one-time endeavor to create any service or product. It usually has a set start and end point and goes through five different stages. These stages include – initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closure.

What is product management?

Since product management deals with the product, it involves managing its life cycle – from the initial ideation, execution, and development to introduction and retirement. There is no set timeline for the process, as it depends on the product’s success and acceptance in the market. 

In addition, the product manager is dedicated to managing the financial aspects of the product and ensuring its commercial success. With consumers at the crux of this success, the product managers thoroughly research their needs and brainstorm ideas to serve them in the best manner.  

They also understand the development and creation of the product, even if they’re not directly involved. Finally, to make the best possible product on the market, they carefully asses all the competitor on the market, understand their flaws and strength, and accordingly incorporate everything.

What is project management?

Project management is the function that involves the actual creation of the product and execution of the ideated plans. It follows a specific timeline and is merely a one-time endeavor. The process starts with the ideation of the product and ends when the project is successfully executed and has reached the consumers. 

The project manager or the “organizer in chief” sees to the successful execution of the project. Projects can be as big as constructing a building or simply rolling out a new product. The manager plans out this entire project which involves assembling teams, specifying schedules, handling budgets, and constantly communicating with the stakeholders. 

The manager employs tools like Flow to help streamline the process and collaborate easily with the team members. 

Project management vs product management: understanding the key differences

As you might have understood, product management and project management are two completely different areas of any organization. While the product manager creates an overall vision, the project manager is the one that gets all the practical details down for execution. 

The key differences between product vs project management are:

  1. Criteria of success

Project and product management has different criteria for success. The project manager’s success would be completing and delivering the assigned task within the limited budget and time constraints. On the other hand, the project manager measures their success in terms of customer satisfaction and the company’s bottom line.

  1. Roles and responsibilities

Product and project management are two different areas of business operation. And so are the roles and responsibilities of the managers who handle them. 

The project manager’s role revolves around estimating timelines, determining tasks, and allocating resources. They also must clearly define the project’s goals, tasks, and risk factors. 

Dealing with customers’ needs and understanding their wants are handled by the product manager. They research the market and competitors for this purpose and understand how exactly the product should be developed. Their responsibility is to solve the customers’ problems with a lucrative product.

  1. Agnostic versus visionary

Project management is in the realm of practicality and strategic innovation. The managers are given a specific vision and objective, and their goal is to execute it flawlessly. They play no role during the envisioning or ideating stages. 

Product management is the one that visualizes and envisions a new product. The product managers create a development plan and placement in the market. They are enabled through market research, consumer behavior, and inputs from stakeholders. 

  1. Long versus short horizon

Products have a long, indeterminate lifespan that is hard to quantify. On the contrary, the projects have a set start and fixed deadline. 

A project manager always starts their assignment with a specific timeline. Their job is to see the completion of the project from start to finish. They also look after the intricacies of the project and assign day-to-day duties to their department members. 

The product managers, however, do not have a distinguished timeline. They look down years down the lane, constantly changing markets and evolving consumer behavior. The managers have to forecast and predict the changes to create a product that serves the consumer needs now and in the future. 

  1. Anywhere versus specific

Another project management vs product management comparison point is the place of occurrence. Managing projects is quite common and occurs in your everyday life as well. From creating a grocery list to planning meals for the day or week, everything is project management. This implies that any task list you create with an end goal comes under project management. 

On the other hand, product management is closely related to the business and cannot be executed in ordinary life. At the bottom line, it is studying the consumers to understand their needs and improving their life. 

How do product managers and project managers work together? 

product management vs project management

Despite handling two different areas, project and product managers work together to create a beneficial product for the company and reign in profits. Let us understand this through an example. 

A clothing brand plans to start an exclusive line for men. It would include formal, business wear and casual, everyday clothes. The brand will hire a product manager to understand what is in trend and what will sell comfortably. The manager, in turn, will define the goals of the product line, understand what consumers are opting for, assemble a team of product developers and keep a lookout for market changes. 

Now, the brand will hire a project manager to execute the vision determined by the product manager. If the product manager has discovered that the gray color is currently in trend, the project manager will lead a project to roll out clothes that feature the color. 

The project manager will assemble a dedicated team, set a schedule, ensure timeliness and manage the budget. Meanwhile, the managers will talk with each other to communicate, consult, and create a successful clothing line. 

Conclusion

As you might’ve understood, these roles are complementary to each other. There might be differences between product management vs project management, but they need to work together to envision and execute products that benefit the organization. Flow makes this collaboration process easy and helps you achieve more. Try it today for free. 

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