The Difference Between Product Management & Project Management

Products? Projects? Product management or project management? 

What does it all mean?

If your company is involved in creating a product — whether it be SaaS or something different– you’ll hear these terms on a daily basis, but confidently understanding the difference is critical to avoiding the “dummy” label with colleagues.  

Whether you’re deciding to focus your career in one of these roles or you just want to understand what people are talking about, let’s nail down the distinction between project and product management and find how they relate to one another.

What Are Project Managers?

Project managers are conductors of the general workflow, efficiency, and communication of teams. Their goal is to simply execute on the vision of the product manager. They bring together every skill they’ve picked up in life to employ the most efficient process they can imagine and get things done right with the resources they have.

The best project managers are able to exercise an organizationally strategic mind and ambitious goals. Basically, they’re the people you avoid when asked to play board games. You’ll want to replicate their approach to viewing systems as a whole. They carefully orchestrate their team to accomplish an astonishing number of tasks in a limited amount of time. They think about risk, scope, time management and what resources are available. And people. Yes, they have to deal with team members, their workloads and how they juggle various other tasks.

All in all, project management involves overseeing complex efforts from many participants with varying skill sets. A project manager will ultimately be judged by his or her ability to successfully complete project objectives on time and on budget, so the goal is to place the best people in the right places to do productive things at the right times.

What Are Product Managers?

Product management is all about planning, designing, and improving the product. Decisions made by product managers are then transferred to project managers, who execute on the overall vision.  To stay competitive, they must keep a keen eye on existing products in their industry as well as the evolving needs of their potential customers to define how products should change or what new products need to be made.

A product manager holds the responsibility of design choices, core branding and ensuring that the right tech requirements are in place to make the product a success.

Check out these must have product management skills & Product Manager Interview Questions

So…What’s The Difference Between Product Managers and Project Managers?

Basically, product managers envision the product, and project managers ensure that vision is realized in a timely and under-budget fashion with project plans and project charters. Why both? While many teams and products have only one person acting as both product and project manager, it’s crucial for any scalable product to have two separate entities.

Project managers must concentrate on process and efficiency while avoiding the dreaded “scope creep” that sometimes product managers desire. Product managers exclusively concern themselves with strategy, design and making sure the finished product really will work the way they want it to.

Ideally, the product manager should be free to maximize his or her time on product metrics, customer analysis, and defining/refining the product core vision. The project manager should use those defined parameters to initiate, plan, control, and execute on project goals.

How Do Project Managers and Product Managers Work Together?

Great project managers work closely with their product manager, realizing that delivering as much value as possible in a collaborative, resourceful way is the team’s mutual goal. The digital era has spurred incredible leaps in productivity by bringing together both management styles.

Resource Management

The product manager will ensure that the overall team has the capability and skills to create and build a new product. The project manager will work with individuals and specific schedules to balance out the workload, set up project milestones and figure out the schedule. The project manager will also coordinate with the product manager on the scope and budget making sure that everything is aligned.

Time Management

Think of time as external and internal.

Quite often, the product manager is responsible for managing the external time. That could be client or leadership team’s expectation and working with marketing on the go-to-market timing and strategy. On the other hand, the project manager is responsible for internal time management–ensuring that the development, manufacturing or production of the product is going as planned and those project milestones are being met.

Communication with Project Management Software

Has this ever happened to you before?

  • The engineers are using one solution to track issues, bugs and updates
  • The product team is using another project management tool for research and scoping
  • And the C-Suite is peppering everyone with questions by email

Nonetheless, project management software and product management software are commonly separated into two different platforms.  However, many teams are finding the need to communicate together and at least watch what other teams are working on and how they’re progressing.

Why is this helpful?

One-stop: Information and communication is centralized in one place

Nothing gets lost: All of the due dates and details won’t get lost in email

Shorter meetings: As watchers, product and project managers can be aware of what’s happening on each other’s teams. That way status updates don’t have to happen in product meetings, but instead real issues can be covered.

With powerful project management software like ClickUp, teams can combine both product and project management workflows into one productivity platform. ClickUp provides different views–either as a board, box or list–so that cross-functional teams who have different habits can work together.

ClickUp, however, aims to combine both product and project management workflows into one productivity platform. 

Written by Technology Advice

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