Tuesday, August 19, 2014

THE big difference between Product Management and Project Management

The Product Manager checking whether the Project Manager builds the castle he asked for. 

Here in France (maybe in your country too), product management is often confused with project management mainly because there is the word management in both. In addition to that, in software companies where the Agile Scrum methodology is used, the product owner is a kind of hybrid making the distinction even more complex.

Please note, that I am not saying that one is better than the other. We need both and it is important to really understand what they mean.

In France, management often implies managing a team (even if no hierarchical ties exists). The relationships involved in product management do not seem to be understood as managing a product team whereas a project team is often clearly identified.

As a reminder, the product manager is responsible for defining the right product to sell, at the right price, at the right time, at the right place and at the right cost to ensure his business is profitable.

On the other side, the project manager is responsible for producing the defined product, at the agreed time by using the agreed resources.

The main difference I see between product management and project management is that the first one is strategical while the latter is tactical.

That has several consequences:

  • 1 Product can contain several projects. 1 Project is in one product (most of the time).
  • Product is about outwards success (company vs rest of the world). Project is about inwards success (within the company)
  • Product management is central. Project management is peripheral.
  • Product manager conceive and plan. Project management execute that plan.

What do you think?


George Philip said...

Hi Pierre-Antoine,

I agree with what you have said, except the last statement:

"Product manager conceive and plan. Project management execute that plan"
- In multiple industries the project manager conceives the project in addition to managing the execution (eg.: Management Consulting, IT Consulting, Manufacturing/Construction(in some geographies), Auditing, etc.)

Next, I did not understand what you mean by the statement:
"Product management is central. Project management is peripheral." - Please explain.


George Philip

Pierre Antoine Antonini said...

Hey George,
Thanks for your comment!

Regarding planning, what I meant is that the product manager plans at a higher level with milestones and interactions with other parties and market. Obviously the project manager also plans but I would say that he plans "inside" the product plan frame.

Regarding central/peripheral, it means that a product is a central part of the company strategy. As a product can result from several projects and project is about implementation, I think it is peripheral in the sense of its relationship to the company strategy.

But be sure I did not mean that one is better that this other one, they are just different and needed both.