In today’s technology-driven business environment, the boundaries between various job profiles are blurring. For instance, it is the seamless integration of processes that has made it necessary for product management and project management teams to work together on creating and distributing new products. However, they still have different roles and responsibilities to take care of.
Product managers are typically the ‘external’ face of the product development team and are responsible for outlining the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of any new concept. On the other hand, project managers are responsible for building the product concept outlined by the product managers. They focus on the ‘how’ part of product development.
Since technology is evolving constantly, it is imperative for the project and product managers to adopt an agile methodology that factors in market and technology dynamics and consumer behaviours. They operate in tandem with each other as the pillars of an effective product strategy. Let’s delve a little deeper into how they complement each other while performing different roles.
A product manager is the person in charge of the complete lifecycle of a product beginning from the conceptualization to the market. Usually, product managers lead a multi-functional team comprising members from the sales and technology departments. The role of a product manager becomes even more intricate in technology companies. It starts with identifying an opportunity which is usually an unaddressed customer need or a demand-supply gap. The next step is then to carry out feasibility analytics, scope of the product, development timelines and future market scenarios. After factoring in all these elements, a product manager creates a concept and development roadmap. Once this is readied and agreed upon, the product manager leads a diverse team comprising specialists from technology, marketing, sales and customer-service departments. It is the product manager who explains the need, scope and timeline of a product that the technology team would need to create. He has to simultaneously work with teams like finance, sales, marketing and customer-service to create a detailed product plan on how the product will be built, introduced into the markets and sold.
Further, it is also the duty of a product manager to ensure that the product is backed by top quality and hassle-free customer service. After the product hits the market, the product manager must consistently analyse the public response and sales data, and dynamically market the product to achieve the financial goals of the product.
A project manager is the person responsible for developing the product as envisaged by the product manager and after incorporating the inputs of technology, sales and customer-service departments. It is the responsibility of the project manager to lead development planning, designing, execution, monitoring, controlling the costs and completion of the project within a given timeframe. A good project manager must be resourceful, intuitive, adaptive and a people’s person who can effectively ensure coordination among his own team-members and can also work in tandem with other departments.
If we look at the above descriptions, we would be able to see that despite their different roles and responsibilities, product and project management are verticals that overlap to an extent.
For instance, the product manager is not restricted to being the external face of the project and needs to embed himself into the technical and product development related details which are typically the prerogative of the project management team. On such times, a product manager is needed to work in tandem with the project manager, and occasionally, both might even share some of their roles and responsibilities to ensure that the project is completed smoothly. Similarly, there might be a situation when the project manager would need to get involved with areas like sales, customer service and marketing etc which are generally areas managed by the product manager. The biggest similarities between the product manager and process manager are the traits they both need to possess to succeed in their domains. The most essential of these skills are the ability to listen, communicate, organize and indulge in product promotions, etc.
To sum it up, there is a clear and easy to understand demarcation that separates the product management process from project management activities. Their roles, goals and scope are different from each other. However, as elaborated above, there are some inevitable commonalities between the two roles since the teams working in both verticals focus on the same business goal: creating winning products. Hence, it would be appropriate to term both the fields as two sides of the same coin, and one can’t function without the other!