What’s the Difference, Between a Project Manager and a Product Manager?
I was asked precisely this question in an interview earlier this week. I do not recall ever having been asked the question so directly before. So I found the timing uncanny when stumbling across an article the very next day using exactly the same phrasing..
Gregg’s article is worth taking a moment to read. However it’s a tad expansive to use in casual discussion, let alone an interview.
My take, for a shorter in-interview response:
“The two roles are complementary but distinct. Product management is focused on the end-to-end lifecycle of an identified value-proposition. The product manager oversees a service or product, from inception, through launch, maintenance, and eventual end of life. Any one of those individual cycle components may define the span of a ‘project’
Product management is focused on the end-to-end lifecycle of an identified value-proposition.
Project management has a narrower scope and span of engagement. A project manager’s role is to use a specific set of resources to deliver an outcome typically defined by someone else, such as the product manager.
Confusion can exist because, especially in smaller companies, the two roles are performed by the same person.”
Project management has narrower scope, delivering an outcome defined by someone else.
In general, most people and organizations understand what a project manager’s role is. However the product manager’s role can vary wildly from one organization, from one industry, to the next. The role also varies by size of an organization.
In my experience, roughly 7 out of 8 product managers have no direct budget authority, nor direct reports, and no direct accountability for revenue attainment. That contrasts with the other (1 out of 8) that may have P&L (profit and loss) responsibilities, direct reports, and are more directly compensated based on product portfolio revenue performance.
As a product manager, or project manager, how does this square with your experience and views?
image credit: Maggie Ng