For those who have had experiences working as a project manager, the concepts and activities of project management come very natural. Project management practices have been around since ancient times. As early as 2570 BC, there were records of project managers doing the planning, coordination, and construction for the Great Pyramid of Giza. The history of modern Project Management is said to have started around 1950.
Today, it is largely popularised by accredited bodies such as the Project Management Institute (PMI®️) - Project Management Body of Knowledge, PRINCE2®️, etc.
Interesting things to know about Product Management
Product management came as a more recent development. It was started by Neil McElroy in 1931 as a memo written to justify the hiring of more product managers. In recent years, product management had been infiltrating the Infocomm and Tech industry through the development of methodologies such as Scrum and Agile Manifesto. Comparing the two roles and practices, there are often misconceptions that Product Management and Project Management are interchangeable terms. That is to say, a Project Manager role is similar or interchangeable with a Product Manager role.
Project Management vs. Product Management Perspective
Let’s try to identify the differences between the two by first looking at the definitions of Project Management and Product Management.
How does “project” differ from “product”?
The term “Project” as defined by PMI’s guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge is-
“A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.”
Whereas the term “Product” refers to-
“A service or an item offered for sale in the market. The value of a product depends on the market, the quality, the marketing and the segment of audiences that is targeted. Each product has a lifecycle after which it needs replacement or upgrade of features.”
From the above definitions, a project and product are different. For illustration purposes, a project is similar to someone performing a “task”. The task is bound by a timeframe and has a defined scope and resources. A product, on the other hand, is the output of the project or task. It is like the goods or services produced as the output to the work performed on the task.
Which is better - Project or Product Management?
It is very difficult to tell. But having both the Product Manager and the Project Manager at the team level will contribute to the successful completion of product in a positive way. It is not about choosing the best. Both the Project Manager and Product Manager are equally important for yielding a long-term business success.
Let us now explore further into the roles and responsibilities of Project Management and Product Management.
Comparison of Project and Product Management
According to Blackblot Product Manager’s Toolkit (PMTK) Methodology, “Product Management is an occupational domain which contains two main disciplines. They are the-
a) Product Planning and
b) Product Marketing.
Product Planning is focused on knowing the customers well and being the advocacy of the customer. It is an ongoing process of identifying and articulating market requirements that defines a product’s features set. Product Marketing is about knowing the business value of the product. They refer to activities aimed at generating products awareness, product differentiation and demand.”
In the same context, PMI’s definition of Project Management refers to “the application of several techniques, skills, knowledge and tools to ensure that the project is able to meet the requirements.”
Therefore, there are even more distinct differences between the project and product manager in terms of roles and responsibilities of a Project Manager as compared to that required for a Product Manager. The Product Manager’s role is focused on delivering value and increasing the intrinsic value of the product. To do these, the Product Manager need to get to know the users of the product well.
|Project management||vs||Product management|
|Project Knowledge base||Product Knowledge base|
|Project Portfolio analysis||Competitive analysis|
|Project Charter||Product Portfolio analysis|
|Project management plan||Market strategy plan|
|Task breakdown structure||Market requirements documents|
|Earned value analysis||Product requirement documents|
|Feasibility study||Product business case|
|Communication plan||Product roadmap|
|Procurement plan||Technology roadmap|
|Quality assurance plan||Launch plan|
|Risk management plan||Marketing plan|
|Status report||End of product life plan|
Also, the Product Manager should take on the roles of a business analyst in articulating and defining the requirements to the product team. He/She should also be a marketing specialist to promote the product and be responsible for driving usage and awareness. An important role of the Product Manager is also determining which features to roll out first and the time-to-market for the product. These skills are even more relevant in an Agile environment where there are multiple software releases and the role of a product manager is important in ensuring that the team is “building the right product”.
Lets see the comparison between the Project and Product management in the tabular form.
A Project Manager’s responsibilities is to organise the team to deliver the project requirements within the approved budget and resources given. The Project Manager is focused on the process and the application of the right tools and method to complete the predefined task or assignment within a certain timeframe. The Project Manager role is to ensure that the team is “building the product right”.
Hence in summary
While transitioning from the project manager role to product manager, you need to keep one thing in mind-
A Project Manager’s role is to ensure that the team is ‘building the product in a right way’. Whereas, a Product Manager’s role is to ensure that the team is ‘building the right product’.
In essence, a Product Manager should work closely with a Project Manager to ensure better synergy and success in the implementation of the project or product. The project management and the product management roles do not overlap one another, but complement each other. Both perform different functions and work hand-in-hand to ensure the delivery and success of the implementation of a project or product.
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