Product Manager vs. Project Manager

Estimated reading time: 2 min


Even though there are shared skillsets between project managers and product managers, the two professions take on different responsibilities that make each one unique. Read on to clear up any confusion about what makes a product manager versus a project manager.

Projects Versus Products – What’s the Difference?

Perhaps the easiest way to clear up the confusion about the roles is to discuss the differences between a project versus a product.
A project is a defined initiative that has a temporary timeline, with activities, timeframes, and deadlines precisely defined for the project’s duration.

A product is a thing that continues to deliver value for a customer. That ‘thing’ can take any form, from a software application to a product you can hold in your hand. Products exist for a certain amount of time, but it’s an arbitrary figure without a clearly defined end date.

However, a product cannot deliver infinite value because customers’ needs change and evolve, and we create new products to deliver on those newly refined expectations.

One of the main reasons why product managers can be confused with project managers is that both need tracking and getting things done. Both projects and products need to define goals, deliveries and defined dates for delivery. Often product managers work with project managers to get development done, marketing projects or any other function to deliver value to customers.

Product Manager Roles

A product manager is a professional who focuses on creating products that consumers need or want. Their roles revolve around developing new products to satisfy a demand, while also mapping out a timeline for the product’s entire life cycle.

As we mentioned earlier, consumer demand changes from week to week, and sometimes even daily. The requirement for new products is ongoing, and an evolving marketplace keeps product managers busy with meeting consumers’ expectations.

Product Manager Roles

The product manager’s roles are many and varied and include:

  • Research consumer demand in the marketplace
  • Strategy development for product improvement, new models, or new products
  • Drafting a product’s vision and roadmap and prioritizing features
  • Overseeing the development team
  • Aligning sales objectives with consumer demand
  • Providing leadership that aligns engineering teams, sales and marketing teams, and support groups and keeping everyone on the same page with updates
  • Developing marketing campaigns to raise awareness of the product

Useful Skills for a Product Manager

Product managers require a diverse set of skills to develop new products and get them to market. Just a few of the qualities a good product manager will possess include:

  • Analytical skills
  • Business and Marketing expertise
  • Research skills
  • Strategic thinking
  • Ability to delegate
  • Prioritization skills
  • Technical skills to facilitate working with design teams

Product Manager Versus Project Manager Comparison

The project manager is less concerned with product goals as they are more focused on the project itself. Project managers use product features and plans to create a timeline based on available resources, personnel, risks, and constraints. In general, a project manager must come up with answers to:

  • What resources does the development team need?
  • How long will the project take?
  • Who is going to do what and when?

A project manager is also in charge of:

  • Managing capacity
  • Securing and assigning resources
  • Managing the budget
  • Creating the capacity to meet demand
  • Delivering status updates
  • Synchronizing teams
  • Resolving problems

In the past, product managers developed their skills with on the job training. However, as demand has been steadily rising, training programs have been designed to allow for a more rapid transition into the role.

Are There Any Overlapping Skills?

Each profession requires similar skill sets such as interpersonal and leadership skills and the ability to delegate. Both must also possess a high level of industry knowledge to perform their respective roles and create a successful product.

When you are trying to bring an excellent product to market, utilizing both product managers and project managers’ skillsets will help deliver a profitable outcome.

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