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Project Manager vs. Product Manager. What's the Difference?

Dawid Pacholczyk 3622ceab56

22/03/2022 |

6 min read

Dawid Pacholczyk

A managerial role is undoubtedly a crucial one for any kind of enterprise or endeavor but it may be a little confusing as to what exactly to choose in particular use cases as the project manager vs product manager and product vs project oppositions may still not be clear to everyone.

But certainly, it’s their knowledge, experience, work ethic, attitude towards colleagues and subordinates, and the way they complete and organize the team are all what translates directly into the effectiveness and the ability to reach business goals on the corporate level.

Very often, they work together and complement each other. However, the main difference between project and product managers is that the product manager has a more strategic role, setting the general business goals of a product, and the project manager is simply the one to make it happen, performing more day-to-day duties. Anyway, a product manager may have some project management tasks in charge, too.

To understand better what these roles have in common and what sets them apart, we’ll outline what tasks, duties, and responsibilities both of these positions entail. Next, a detailed comparison of both roles will be provided, covering many features such as product manager vs project manager salary.

Table of contents:

  1. Project manager – roles and responsibilities
  2. Product manager – tasks and duties
  3. Product vs project manager – comparison
  4. Product manager & project manager boiled down

Project manager – roles and responsibilities

A successful project completion depends on how a project manager runs it. To perform the duties at the highest level, they need to be well-educated, experienced, and often also charismatic – to make all team members get engaged and do their best together.

But what exactly are the roles and responsibilities of a project manager nowadays? Well, very often they involve:

  • managing teams of various sizes and backgrounds
  • breaking down projects into particular tasks
  • creating budget plans and timelines
  • keeping track of task completion
  • assigning tasks to particular team members
  • facilitating communication
  • ensuring the right resources availability and enough time for project completion
  • managing risks
  • meeting business objectives
  • monitoring, evaluating, and reporting the results

What project managers oversee are complex projects – from the very beginning of the way to the successful delivery.

Product manager – tasks and duties

In turn, a product manager is simply a person in charge of the product during its whole life cycle. In short, a product is something offered for sale that serves customers’ needs. It may be not only a physical item – representing durable or nondurable goods – but also a virtual, digital or cyber one (e.g. an application) and a service, too.

Some of the tasks and responsibilities of a product manager include:

  • setting a product vision and strategy
  • putting users in the center, creating use cases
  • researching customer needs to serve them right
  • conducting market and competitive research
  • creating a product roadmap
  • prioritizing particular launches
  • meeting sales goals
  • collaborating with subcontractors (if needed)

The responsibilities of product managers may vary depending on the industry and particular product.

Product vs project manager – comparison

When comparing product and project managers, it’s good to remember that both roles complement one another, and their scopes are not the same. Ideally, employees holding these positions should support each other, and failing to do so may harm the entire organization.

The main difference between project manager and product manager is simply the scope of their duties or job descriptions. In the case of a project manager, what’s in the very center is simply coordinating and overseeing projects. A product manager, in turn, focuses on developing and releasing particular products, being responsible for their eventual market successes.

Another difference between product and project manager is that the former may be regarded as more strategic while the latter – more outgoing, and active. Also, a project manager tends to be more goal-oriented, with a clear beginning and end of the project set. In turn, a product manager’s work is usually ongoing, with the purpose of improving KPIs.

What product and project managers have in common is that they simply need to be versatile and flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances, bold enough to lead the team in the right direction, and have a sufficient level of emotional intelligence to manage interpersonal issues that may arise.

Planning certain assignments within a given budget, coordinating staff and assigning tasks to particular people, setting the right atmosphere and organizational conditions for seamless cooperation, motivating people involved, risk management, overseeing relevant documentation and contracts, ensuring all needed resources, as well as reporting, are all in the cards, too.

Another similarity is that in the case of product and project managers positions some requirements overlap. For instance, candidates may be expected to have strong leadership and communication skills, a problem-solving aptitude, relevant working experience in a managerial position, and be able to manage multiple tasks – in order to ensure flawless execution of coordinated projects.

Product manager & project manager boiled down

Undoubtedly, the managerial staff can make it or break it as far as the company’s existence is concerned. And product and project managers certainly have a huge impact on the organizations’ performance. Time to market, competitive edge, and the direction the business is heading into – it all depends on the managers’ decisions.

The project management area is an important one, vital for millions of professionals around the globe. Interestingly, the Project Management Institute (or PMI), operating since 1969, has 650,000 members in over 200 countries. In turn, the role of a product manager is a newer one, and thus – not that well defined. On the other hand, on average, product managers are paid better than project managers.

Certainly, the „product manager project manager” opposition is something worth having a look at as this powerful combo can move mountains if both managers understand what their scopes of duties are and act in line with it.

Looking for a genuine IT project manager that will make a difference? In need of a product manager that can take your company to a whole new level? If you’re longing for a corporate breakthrough, contact us now.

Rated: 5.0 / 1 opinions
Dawid Pacholczyk 3622ceab56

Dawid Pacholczyk

Consulting Manager at Codete with over 15 years of experience in the IT sector and a strong technical background. Seasoned in working with multinational companies. Ph.D. student and lecturer at Polish-Japanese Academy of IT, focused on software architecture, software development and management.

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