Product managers and project managers are two distinct roles. To launch new products successfully, they play a crucial role and must collaborate tightly. Product managers set the vision for the product, gather requirements and prioritize them, but it’s the project manager’s job to act upon this vision and make sure that it gets executed on time and within budget. Product managers work closely with project managers to ensure that product development is aligned with the product strategy.
The role of a project manager
Project managers own the execution of the project. A project manager is held responsible for meeting time and budget requirements, executing the scheduling, and allocating resources to successfully do so. They manage the project scope, schedule, and budget, identify potential risks, and make sure the correct resources are being used to complete necessary tasks.
Like product managers, project managers work closely with cross-functional teams, such as designers, engineers, and stakeholders to successfully complete a project. A project manager communicates with and manages different team members to deliver projects on time, within budget, and to meet quality standards and business objectives.
Project managers focus on the "how" and “when” of a project.
Project managers plan, execute and monitor the progress of a project, and communicate the project status to stakeholders. Unlike a product manager, a project manager's job ends when the product or project is delivered. They don’t often stay involved after the product launch or as part of marketing.
The role of a product manager
Product managers care about delivery, but not at the task level that project managers do. Product managers focus instead on ensuring that cross-functional teams are working on what’s most important and valuable by providing a constant and evolving supply of the next set of problems and needs that ought to be addressed.
Product managers work closely with cross-functional teams, such as design, engineering, marketing, and sales, to bring a product to market. They set the product roadmap and prioritize features based on customer needs and market trends. Product managers also ensure that the product is delivered on time, within budget, and meets customer expectations.
Product managers focus on the "what" and "why" of a product.
Being responsible for the overall success of a product – a product manager is the visionary. They are responsible for defining product features, functionality, and user experience. As a product manager, you also have to have a strong understanding of the market and the needs of your customers and continuously conduct market research to stay ahead. It’s because of their broad purview that they are often called the CEO of the product.
What are the key differences?
When comparing product vs. project managers, many professionals incorrectly view them as one and the same. Both handle timelines, must have excellent communication skills, and manage different perspectives and needs – however, they ultimately are driven by very different priorities.
Perspectives differ in a few key areas:
Focus: Product managers define the product's features, user experience, and value to customers. Project managers make sure a project is delivered on time, within budget, and meets quality standards.
Mindsets: Rather than managing tasks, product managers are managing the purpose behind the task. Product managers mainly measure their success based on value to users and their ability to anticipate the next solution. Project managers are internally focused, with their primary concern being to execute and make sure things get done.
Scope: Product managers build the product's overall vision and trajectory, while project managers focus on the specific tasks required to deliver the project.
Teams: Product managers work closely with cross-functional teams to bring a product to market, while project managers work closely with project teams to deliver the project.
Timeline: Product managers are responsible for a product from the beginning to the end of its life cycle. Project managers focus on delivering the project within a specific timeline.
Real innovation happens and great products are built when a savvy product manager leads a team of project managers, experience designers, engineers, storytellers, and marketers – all devoted to meeting the needs of customers.