Product managers and project managers are two roles that are both associated with the planning, development and delivery of a product or project. Despite their many similarities, these positions have multiple differences that set them apart. It's important to know the difference between these two roles so you can decide which one you might be more interested in. In this article, we explore what a product manager is, what a project manager is and how they differ with some examples.
What is a product manager?A product manager leads their team to strategize, create and deliver a final product. They work with the project manager, product team and customers to create and promote their project. Their role is to meet and satisfy the needs of customers by developing and creating a product for them. To do this, product managers establish a strategic plan or product road map. They perform research for the product, form a vision and implement workflow to produce and deliver the merchandise. When developing their product, the product manager may also work with sales and marketing teams to optimize the product for salability.
Read more: Learn About Being a Product Manager
What is a project manager?A project manager leads their team to deliver a project. A project includes the activities or events that lead to a defined outcome. For example, coordinating the release of a product could be a project for a project manager. With this, their role is to develop, create and maintain the project life cycle. To do this, a project manager may work closely with their team and a product manager. While the product manager creates the strategy for a product, the project manager oversees and implements the strategy. The project manager's overall goal is to complete the project by a defined deadline and within a set budget.
Read more: Learn About Being a Project Manager
Product manager vs. project managerAlthough product managers and project managers may seem very similar, they are different roles with varying responsibilities. Here are some ways that a product manager and a project manager differ:
A defining characteristic between product managers and project managers is their roles. The product manager is the planner while the project manager is the executor. This refers to how the product manager plans the project—they strategize and develop the product, through activities such as defining its features. The product manager achieves this by researching and communicating with stakeholders. From here, a project manager oversees the execution of the project and ensures that both project and product teams finish it by its release deadline. To achieve this, they create and implement schedules, timelines and a budget.
For example, if a candle company wants to create a new type of candle, they may hire a product manager to research ideas for the item based on what their customers might like. After their research, the product manager may work with the product team to develop a new candle. The product manager may also develop a strategic plan in order to deliver the new candle to the market. The candle company can hire a project manager to oversee and manage the resources, budget and timeline of the new candle's release.
The daily responsibilities of a product manager and project manager also differ because their roles encompass different aspects of production. The product manager might conduct research via interviews and surveys and communicate with stakeholders about research and product ideas. Once the product team develops the item, the product manager may also create a product road map or collaborate with the marketing team to create packaging for the product. From here, the project manager must learn about the product, understand the project's goals and create a schedule of tasks to meet deadlines for objectives. They may also designate resources for their project.
Using the example above, the product manager for the company candle might conduct market research or surveys to learn what scents their customers want for a new candle. After the product manager crafts a strategy for developing the candle, the project manager can establish a schedule that both the product and project teams need to follow in order to meet the candle's release deadline.
Related: What Does a Project Manager Do? Duties and Responsibilities
TeamsSince both roles are managerial positions, the product and project managers lead different teams. Both their teams help ensure that they complete the product or project in time for their release. The product manager leads the product team while the project manager leads the project team. The project manager, however, also works with the product team to make sure that they're completing their objectives. Although the product manager only works with the product team, they facilitate cross-team organization. For example, they may collaborate with the engineering team or sales team.
For example, the product team might help the product manager with their responsibilities while planning the new candle. They could help conduct research or contribute to the vision for the candle. Comparatively, the project team might work concurrently to help their manager produce the candle and work with the design or marketing teams to create labels for the new candle.
Both product managers and project managers work with clients to develop and promote either their product or project. The product manager's goal is to create a product that satisfies the desires and needs of customers. To do this, they work directly with clients to see what they may want in a product. A large role of product managers is to conduct market research to understand target consumer trends that might help increase the sales of their products. This research impacts how the project manager plans the workflow for a product, which is why they may also work with clients.
For example, if a survey shows that half of the candle company's customers want more 12 ounce candles and the other half wants more 24 ounce candles, the product manager has to decide what product can meet the competing needs of the customers collectively. With a product development strategy in mind, the project manager might plan a release that is scheduled during a popular holiday season to increase sales and customer satisfaction.
Related: How To Become a Product Manager (Required Qualifications and Education)
Both product managers and project managers use different software to achieve their tasks and responsibilities. Product management software needs to document and communicate strategy and design. Product managers may also use software that helps them generate product road maps. Project management software has to track the timeline, schedule and progress of a project. The programs that project managers use may have features to create a development plan so they can track the team's creation of a product.
The original article by Indeed's Editorial Team is here...