Product Management vs. Project Management: 5 Key Differences

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Product Management vs Project Management: 5 Key Differences

Curious to know how product managers are different from project managers? While similar, these two roles take on pretty distinct functions. 

Product managers identify the “what” and “why” of a product. They ensure that every new feature or product will cater to the consumer needs and business goals. On the other side, project managers underscore the “how” and “when” of a project by managing, collaborating, and monitoring projects. 

Let’s explore how these two roles are different and discuss what it takes to excel in project and product management.


Product vs. Project

A product is an entity created to be sold to address a consumer’s issues. The lifespan of a product is usually unspecified. You can keep on selling the same product, or its iteration, for several years.

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A project, on the other hand, is a task or a stack of tasks that need to be accomplished.

A project is not necessarily confined to a single product entity. Instead, it runs within budget and time constraints. Unlike a product, a project has a defined beginning and end. Furthermore, as a product matures with time, multiple projects might be initiated to refine that product.


The Role of Product Managers vs Project Managers

Product managers entirely focus on product-centric tasks – product vision, product strategy, product blueprint, product objectives, and supervising product teams. A majority of their routine activities hover around the success of one particular product. 

Project managers can’t prioritize a single product over the remaining of their tasks. Also, they need to cope with handling the budget, their team’s overall productivity and welfare, and other activities independent of particular products. 

Further, project managers will go past a product after they fulfill their project roles. On the contrary, product managers stick with one product for a prolonged period – from development to delivery to constant maintenance.


Skill Sets of Product Managers vs Project Managers

For product managers, it’s crucial to master research skills, leverage strategic thinking for the entire product development process, and be business-savvy to make a mark in the market. 

On the flip side, the skillset of a project manager is more about planning, organization, and time management.


Outcomes and Success Monitoring 

Product managers intend to build a product that’ll satiate a customer’s requirements and desires. Of course, they’ll get upset if their product is pricey and overdue. With that said, the product tops their priority list. Furthermore, the ideal outcome of product managers is to outline a product blueprint, build an incredible product, track its progress, and fine-tune it in due course to suit the consumer’s needs. 

Project managers, alongside their team, aim to accomplish a project on time, within the budget, and to the satisfaction of external shareholders. While their ideal outcome also includes successful product delivery, project managers might gauge their success based on their capability to enhance their colleagues’ skills and deliver a timely and monetarily efficient project.


Day-to-day Activities

How does a day in a product manager’s life differ from that of a project manager?

Both the PMs organize team meetings, specify weekly tasks for each team member, engage with the shareholders and manage the team workflow.

A day in a project manager’s life involves more organizational and administrative meetings than a product manager is likely to cope with. Likewise, the daily functions of product managers include more:

  • Technical troubleshooting
  • Data evaluation 
  • Product backlog management
  • Product development meetings

Both Work Together, yet Carry their own Uniqueness 

You must now have a crystal-clear picture of how project managers and product managers are different with this side-by-side comparison. 

Both the professionals focus on the customer experience, how well they can manage team members, and how they can pull off the finest end-product with the technologies and tools available. Moreover, both demand exceptional organization and communication skills, as well as a knack at the relevant industry.

Furthermore, project and product managers are critical to a business’s success story and are commonplace in several industries.

A survey says that 87% of the product knowledge gained by the product managers is on-the-job experience. This marks a skill gap that adequately lacks formal training. As many learning platforms today offer professional courses to become data-driven product managers, it can be a master skill in prospecting the future.

In this need of the hour, the premier business institutes – IIM Lucknow (IIML), and WileyNXT have come up with an Executive Education Program in Product Management to meet the needs. This course offered by IIM Lucknow covers the three most important training needs which are Product Understanding, Marketing, and Strategy Development across the Product Lifecycle. 

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The course is entirely experiential and outcome-based learning, integrating Data Analytics and Design Thinking concepts and their applications in scaling customers in a market-centric business.  It is co-developed by top faculty at IIML and Wiley Industry leaders, along with 50+ businesses from emerging tech and product leaders of Wiley Innovation Advisory Council.  Miles Education is the official channel partner.

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