The job landscape of today has never been more confusing. Gone are the days when job titles were self-explanatory, and you could more or less tell what the job is about from its name.
During simpler times, we had clear titles such as Sales, Marketing, Engineering (with all its different types), Management…. etc. The name of the job was enough to reveal most of the job’s nature. This however has no longer been the case for the past few years with newer titles entering the fold such as “Inside Sales Specialists”, “Sales Engineer Analysts”, “Technical Sales Representative” ….etc.
Two titles however that take up a very significant portion of today’s job market and are more often than not, confused with each other are “Project Management” and “Product Management”.
As such, we’ve decided to take a closer look at those 2 jobs in-particular and examine their differences and similarities.
Product Manager -as the name strongly suggests- are purely “product” focused. They primarily communicate with customers to ensure they have a proper understanding of the product, how it can be leveraged to tackle the customer’s business challenges and help them achieve their objectives.
Just as importantly, Product Managers ask customers what other features they would like to see in the product after which they take this information to engineering to examine the applicability of building these specific features into the product.
Additionally, Product Managers are in regular contact with marketing in order to ensure that ideal messaging is being shared within the market so as to maximize the chance of retaining current customers as well as attracting new ones.
These are the main stake holders a product manager would typically deal with the sole purpose of achieving financial success for the product he/she is managing.
A Project Manager on the other hand is not limited to the product but instead, has a broader view of a project from start to end. The project may not even necessarily involve a product, it can be a process enhancement project for instance focused on making the business process more efficient or less time consuming. As opposed to product management, project managers deal with a much more diverse set of stake holders which can completely change according to the nature of the project.
Required Knowledge vs Required Skillset
A Product Manager needs to be very technically aware when it comes to the product they manage. By technically aware, we mean that they need to have a full understanding of how the product is built, how it works/functions and all the features it supports. Otherwise, they would not be able to hold the conversations mentioned earlier with the various stakeholders with whom they work. Being a subject matter expert on the product is a must when it comes to product management and without it, the product is destined to fail.
For Project Management though, it is more about the skillset rather than knowledge. That’s obviously not to say knowledge is not required but it is on a more general level compared to Product Management. So, if a Product Manager is working on a real estate project, then knowledge on the real estate market would greatly help, but expert level knowledge is not essential.
Skills however such as communication skills and organizational skills are the difference between success and failure in Project Management. A Project Manager will always be communicating with different business entities many of which are very different in nature. The Project Manager must adapt his communication style to achieve the most results out of each interaction. Additionally, the stakeholders with whom the Project Manager works will have different priorities and objectives and it is up to the Project Manager to organize the ideal way to achieve these objectives that would result in the most success for the project.
As you may have noticed though, despite the differences mentioned above, both roles also do have more than a few similarities.
One would even go as far as saying that a Product Manager could in fact be considered a very specific Project Manager managing a very specific project revolving solely around the product. Regular communication with different stakeholders is a key aspect of each role. Finally, the ultimate goal of both roles in most cases is to achieve financial success for the company albeit via different channels (i.e the success of the product or the project).
Of course, there is so much more to be said on both roles, but this was just a brief guide to give you the basic idea based on which you can start conducting your own research.
Source/Reference: Product Manager VS Project Manager | Role, Career Path, Salary – YouTube