Product Manager vs Project Manager: The Definition & Differences

Laura Angelica updated on 2024-06-06 13:44:58

The terms Product manager vs Project manager are very often misunderstood and are mistakenly used interchangeably, even though both of these carry out different tasks and responsibilities. Although both the roles involve managing something, what they are actually managing is what makes all the difference. In this article we will discuss the dissimilarities between project management and product management to help tackle this confusion.

The Definition: Product manager vs Project manager

Product manager

Product managers are responsible for guiding the success of a product and leading the cross-functional team that is responsible for improving it. It is an important organizational role — especially in technology companies — that sets the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for a product or product line. The position may also include marketing, forecasting, and profit and loss (P&L) responsibilities. In many ways, the role of a product manager is similar in concept to a brand manager at a consumer packaged goods company. Product managers provide the deep product expertise needed to lead the organization and make strategic product decisions.

product manager vs project manager

Project manager

Project managers usually play the lead role in planning, executing, monitoring, controlling and closing projects. They are responsible for the complete project scope, project team, resources, and the success or failure of the project. A project manager is usually assigned multiple tasks which are to be completed with the help of their team, a project manager can utilize the five project phases of a project life cycle that consists of initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and closing to successfully complete the project. The project management phases intersect with 10 knowledge areas. The knowledge areas include integration, scope, time, cost, quality, human resources, communication, risk procurement and stakeholder management.

product vs project manager

What's the differences between product manager and project manager

product vs project

Project vs Product

To start with, it is very important to recognize the dissimilarities between a project and a product. A project is for a very specific period, with a very clear description of activities and timeframe for delivery, while on the other hand a product forms constant value for customers and does not necessarily have a set timeframe. This is due to the reason that customers' needs keep on changing on a daily basis, even hourly, basis so the products need to keep up with their expectations.

Project Programme
Set timeframe (beginning and end date) No set timeframe
Temporary, short-term project team More permanent, long-term project team
One-off delivery Continuous development
Set plan Vision

Project Manager Responsibilities

A Project manager is responsible for breaking down calculated plans into actionable, task-orientated initiatives. They are responsible for overseeing the complete delivery of a project and make sure that it is completed within the set period of time, set budgets and resources. Essentially, they make sure that the plan succeeds by placing the plans into action and monitor its progress. Although this seems to be very simple but unfortunately, it is not that simple. It is very challenging to manage the scope of a project, the manager has to align and allocate time, budgets and resources, whilst supervising the project team and any conflicts or concerns that might arise. Therefore it is very safe to say that it takes a much organized individual to complete a project on time and within the specified budget.

Product Manager responsibilities

product management definition

A Product manager is dedicated and focused on creating a product that customers need and want. They are liable to ensuring the entire lifecycle of the product and create a vision of the products' future. As stated previously, the needs and expectations of customers keep changing on a daily basis. This means that continuous improvement and agility are the basic concepts that govern a product manager's job role. Building a product roadmap is also one of the key responsibilities of a product manager. This essentially maps out the directions so that they are able to meet the product vision, detailing the exact steps that are required to be taken by the product team. Nevertheless, the job of the product manager does not end even once the product is finished. Beyond creation, they are responsible for checking the product's development and continuous growth with market research and promotion.

product manager vs project manager

Project Manager's skills

Project managers usually adopt a goal-orientated approach and are often concerned with execution of the project. They ask the who, when and how questions. They are the key decision-makers and must gather and estimate statistics to make evidence-based decisions. Communication is the key, as they are not only communicating with their internal project team, but also communicating with external stakeholders. It is important for the project team to have a solid and clear leader, while other stakeholders require regular updates, keeping everyone informed and happy. Planning, organisation, risk management and even conflict management, are all abilities which a project manager should have in order to complete a project successfully.

Product Manger's skills

Product managers should be more proactive and creative in their approach as their aim is to create a product strategy that drives value for their customers as well as the business. Anxious with the 'what' and 'why' questions, they need to put themselves in the customers' shoes to create a voice that represents an entire group. This calls for empathy and inquisitiveness to immerse yourself into the user's world and obtain a deeper understanding of what they need/desire. This understanding also follows on to problem solving skills, as most of the products are produced so that a particular problem can be solved. Therefore it is vital for a project manager to have great problem solving and thinking outside the box skills.

The Software use: product manager vs project manager

Product Management Software:

A benefit of Wondershare Mockitt is Flexible permission management – 3 roles (Owner, Administrator and Member), each with specific permissions. Team members can be managed flexibly and securely. Work handovers are simple. Multi-level permission management makes the Enterprise tool perfect for ensuring the privacy of projects.

 product vs project manager

Figma for Design: Figma allows teams to create, test and ship better designs from start to finish. It is packed with different design features for product managers to use.

Pendo: Pendo also helps product teams deliver the value which users want, even as their needs evolve.

Project Management Software:

1) Basecamp is a popular project management software that is widely used by many project management teams. This software offers several different collaboration features such as a designated discussion area where users can leave behind comments. 

2) ProofHub: ProofHub is an online project management app that places an emphasis on simplicity. This project management software is intended mainly for small and growing businesses.