What is the Difference Between a Project Manager and Product Manager?

people project integration management Dec 05, 2021
What is the Difference Between a Project Manager and Product Manager?

What is the difference between a project manager and a product manager? As far as jobs go, in some small organizations they may be fulfilled by one person.  In reality, however, they are two distinct roles.

A product manager is responsible for a product life cycle.  The product life cycle may go on for years as products gain new features, are sold in more variations, and are ultimately retired.  This means product managers are responsible for determining and visioning products customers need, taking them to market, and managing their evolution over time.

Product managers have revenue responsibilities - their products need to make money to fund company operations.  Product managers need to be business savvy with skills in strategy, competitive analysis, market analysis, and marketing.

Product managers and project managers follow different standards and frameworks.  Of course, the PMBOK Guide is the standard most often followed by project managers (and there are others).  The Guide is also the foundation for the ISO Standards for project management.  Product managers will generally want to follow a framework such as Pragmatic Framework from the Pragmatic Institute.

Product managers need products, and that's where project managers come into play.  Project managers lead the project life cycle to provide a product. Projects start with initiation and planning and end when the product is delivered.

In general, project managers only expend money for projects - they do not have revenue responsibility (unless, of course, they have the dual product manager role). Product managers need leadership, technical project management, and some business skills.

In larger organizations, product managers need project managers during the product life cycle to manage the creation of the product and its variations. Project managers, on the other hand, may perform projects not product related (for example to create services and other results).

There is one important similarity ... both roles need project management skills.  Are there any other differences you would like to point out?  Please leave a comment below!


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