The difference between product manager and project manager are two other confusing but vital roles in a technology company that get mixed up a lot these days. Although they may overlap in terms of certain skills, such as leadership and time management, they are actually two sides of the same coin.
The product manager defines a vision for the product that needs to be built, requirements and assembles, and prioritizes them, while the project manager works on that vision and makes sure that it is implemented on time and on budget.
The difference between a product manager and a project manager
The product manager role is strategic, much like a CEO but for a producer. They are the ones who determine and own the general direction of the product, staying with it until the product is removed from the market.
The product manager performs typical tasks such as;
Talk to users to collect requirements
Identify problems and opportunities
Determine which ones are worth following
Create a roadmap and identify features
Prioritize development tickets
On the other hand, the role of the project manager is more tactical and mainly focuses on the implementation aspect. They must take the product vision from the product manager, create a project schedule around it, and plan work for the development team to meet important goals and deadlines.
The project manager performs typical tasks such as;
Risk and Issue Management
Planning and scheduling resources
Product manager as a function or practice is somewhat outdated now. It’s been around since 1931 (well at least in theory). It originated from a note written by Neil McIlroy, director of advertising at Procter and Gamble. He wrote this memo to Procter & Gamble’s executive team citing the need for a “brand man,” the person solely responsible for the product and not the company.
The entire product lifecycle framework can be categorized into two phases.
New product development
Marketing or Manufacturing/Operations
New product development
This stage can be defined as the whole process of bringing a new product or service to market.
Whatever an organization has to do to decide what needs to be built and then built and brought to market is covered here. We can broadly classify this stage into the following stages. At each stage, a critical decision is made to move forward, iterate (pivot) or stop. Please note that each stage takes a lot of time and effort and there are tons of activities to be carried out but for the sake of simplicity we are only touching on it at a high level.
Also, I don’t simply list the roles and responsibilities of each of the roles, but I will introduce each of our managers as they come into the picture in the entire product lifecycle.
The journey begins with the Product Manager. The product manager is responsible for taking ownership of all of the following stages.
Thinking: Through market research, customer research, consideration of industry trends, competition products, and consideration of the convergence of upcoming new technologies, ideas for new products are created and documented. All product ideas are then sorted, brainstormed, and some are finally shortlisted for the next stage.
Concept development and testing: Brief product ideas are used to create a proof of concept with minimal development and time. The goal here is to get something done as quickly as possible. The generated concept is then validated using simulated market conditions and some potential customers. Depending on the nutrition package received, the concept is iterated, improved and centered. Then we move on to the next stage.
Preparation of the product plan: In this stage, the product manager needs to put on his business hat and create a compelling business case for the product that must win funding from the executives. All product line definitions, product roadmap, and high-level product definitions occur at this point (not detailed specification). This is also the stage where the Product Marketing Manager comes into the picture. A product vision/business case panel is created which should consist of at least the following.
the proposed solution
Marketing Strategy (owned by Product Marketing Manager)
Cost and schedule estimates
Revenue plan / monetization plan
4. Marketing mix development: We move to this stage once the product is approved by the top management. The marketing mix consists of 4 elements i.e. product, pricing, promotions, and place. Therefore, at this stage, all detailed product specifications i.e. PRD is created and owned by the product manager. It also starts creating a Product Backlog, detailed epics, and user stories. The Product Marketing Manager creates the marketing and promotion strategy for the product. It decides the pricing of the product and its various variants or versions. He also started creating a Go To Market strategy for the product. Works on all necessary marketing communications and collateral, conferences and events to target, etc.
- Actual development: This is the stage where the project manager comes into the picture. He is responsible for ensuring that the Product Backlog is set up properly, owns the Daily Scrum, Sprint Planning meetings, and ensures that all developers understand the stories and are clear on what needs to be built. Coordinates between design, engineering, and product teams to ensure that there are no gaps and that the team is able to deliver the expected results after a sprint.
In this stage, the product manager takes some critical decisions like building some components required in the product or buying/purchasing them from outside vendors. Outline the team’s features and capabilities against the cost impact. Constantly monitor the changing market demands and change the backlog accordingly (if necessary).
It is the product manager’s responsibility to ensure that we provide the MVP only initially. As Reed Hoffman (Co-founder of Linke
dIn), “If you weren’t embarrassed about the first release of your product, you started too late.”
- Product testing: In this stage, the product is tested internally (alpha testing), bugs are fixed and then tested externally in a controlled environment (beta testing). Comments are collected, analyzed, filtered, and included in other editions. The project manager owns bug fixes and actual testing. The product manager owns the feedback analysis and decides what should and what should not be repeated in the product.