Find the ultimate guide that trains you well by discussing product manager vs project manager concisely.
Sometimes you may confuse yourself with the terms product and project managers since in most businesses you will see that these professionals are working together. Not to mention, fresh graduates and trainees make such mistakes often.
You could either be a product manager, project manager, or both, depending on your workplace, your own business, or contracts. Whichever the case may be, you must know the fine differences and similarities between these two professions.
Continue reading to understand product and project management concepts from the ground up, discover some online learning courses, and indulge yourself with the perks of these two job roles.
Who is a Product Manager?
A product manager is someone responsible for determining which customer needs and the business goals a product can fulfill. Being a relatively new position, there are various questions about the responsibilities of this position holder.
A Product Manager has to manage and assess a product throughout its lifecycle. However, they get assistance from other specialist professionals including designers, developers, QA engineers, manufacturing teams, supply chain and logistics experts, marketing managers, and many more.
Responsibilities of a Product Manager
A product manager is responsible for managing the overall process of product creation or feature addition. Throughout the product life-cycle, they need to wear many hats including the following ones:
A product should be able to resolve one or more problems of the customers. Hence, the most integral part of being a product manager is to identify the problems on which the team needs to build the next product.
Market research is how a product manager will know the problems of the users or the existing requirements of a local or international market. This helps the whole team to understand the potential market size of a product and how it can resolve the problems.
Product Proposal Development
Product managers also need to get feedback from the technical team about their opinion and create a product proposal. The proposal will include which products and features to build or add text that aligns with the organizational policy.
Manage the Technical Team
Once a product gets the nod from the managerial team, the product managers have to guide their technical team to materialize the vision of a product. While they should give sufficient freedom to the tech team, constant supervision is also vital to keep the product development process on track.
Test and Review Products
Product managers continuously test and validate their products to make sure the customers get the best version of the product without any glitches. During the qualifying phase, they run beta programs. While in Agile environments, they need to always check for customer reviews and make necessary changes.
Determine Product Price
Product managers also play role in setting the product price, whether by recommendation or info contribution. Though it only happens in selective industries, product managers should be aware of the competitor pricing to help decide the product price.
Even at the phase of launching, the product managers are not free from responsibilities. They need to be in touch with the company’s marketing team to make the product reach the right customers.
Who Is a Project Manager?
To understand the role of a project manager, first, you need to understand projects. A project is a set of time-bound tasks that upon completion produce an outcome. The outcome could be anything related to a business. For example, rolling out a software patch, pushing OS updates, producing products and distributing those, and so on.
A project can be linked to a product’s lifecycle. For example, choosing the graphical appearance of a product’s box could be a whole project. Another example could be marketing a smartphone game on social media to boost sales. All these are projects revolving around products.
Now, the professional who is responsible to complete a project and submit the project report to their superiors is a project manager. A project manager is answerable for timely project completion, utilization of project resources, and keeping the project within a set budget.
Responsibilities of a Project Manager
The project manager needs to join the project from the planning stage and stay there until the outcome is evident. Along with technical specialists, accountants, product managers, human resources managers (HR), etc., a project manager needs to plan the whole project.
Creating the Project Team
A project manager must understand the requirements of the project and accordingly requisite workforce from the organization. If needed, project managers can requisite new hires through the HR team.
Leading the Project Team
Irrespective of the talent pool of the project team, a project manager is always the leader. You must lead the team and delegate appropriate tasks to the project resources. Also, you must train trainee project managers for future succession planning.
Set Rationale Project Deadlines
You need to work with the project’s client and business stakeholders to determine a rationale project deadline. You must keep a buffer to not exhaust your project team because this team will stay with you for more projects to come.
Monitor Project Progress
Being a project manager, the project progress chart, timeline, or Gantt chart should be at your fingertip. Whenever the client or organization leadership team asks for a status report, you must not hesitate to explain the project’s health and pace.
Resolve Project Bottlenecks
Every project will encounter some bottlenecks. As an ace project manager, you should think creatively in multi-dimension to avoid common bottlenecks like the upcoming holiday season, weather issues, skill shortages, etc.
For unforeseen bottlenecks, you must work with the leadership team, business owner, and clients to resolve those issues and get the project back on track.
You will be the sole manager of all the budgets for your project. So, you need to have appropriate money management skills to not make the project over budget.
Create Project Reports
You mostly need spreadsheet and project management app skills to manage projects digitally. Then, you also need to extract numerical data from the project to evaluate its performance.
Report to Business Stakeholders
Finally, you are responsible to submit the project’s quarterly, half-yearly, or annual reports to the stakeholders. You are also the key person to deliver project deliverables to the client.
Product Manager Vs Project Manager: Differences
The key differences between a product manager and a project manager are as follows:
- A product manager deals with questions like “what” and “why” of the product. On the other hand, a project manager needs to take care of the “how” and “when” of it.
- Besides being business-savvy, product managers should be good at strategic thinking and market research. Contrarily, project managers are well versed in planning, budgeting, organizing, and time management.
- While product managers have a thorough and strategic knowledge of products, Project managers know the planning and tactical parts.
- Product managers own the vision and set the goals. However, Project managers follow that vision and work to achieve them.
- Product managers function as a bridge between the project manager and all other stakeholders. On the contrary, the project manager works as the coordinator between the technical teams and the product manager.
- Though product managers are part of the whole product development process, they are needed even after the product launch to work with the marketing and sales teams. On the flip side, the responsibility of the project manager ends with the project delivery.
Necessary Educational Background
For Product Managers
You can become a product manager after graduating with any college degree, but a marketing or business operations degree is often preferred. If you can build experience and skills beforehand, that will be an added advantage. The following skills are important to become a product manager:
- Basic business knowledge
- Data analysis
- Market research
- Price modeling
Though it is not mandatory to have certifications to become a product manager, having one or more will surely work in your favor during the job interviews.
- AIPMM Certified Product Manager Credential
- Product Manager Certificate from Product School
- Certified Product Manager from Pragmatic Institute
So far, you have learned the mandatory educational qualifications, skills, and training necessary to become a successful product manager. Now, it is time to learn about professional online courses that can help you achieve your goals. Sign up for any of the courses below according to your learning objectives:
Product Management 101-Udemy
Become a Product Manager-Udemy
Become a Product Manager Learning Path-LinkedIn Learning
Becoming a Product Manager-LinkedIn
Become a Product Manager-Udacity
Product Management Courses-edX
Real-World Product Management Specialization-Coursera
Software Product Management Specialization-Coursera
2. For Project Managers
Like the product manager, project managers can not start their career in a management post. Most project managers start their career journey in the technical field. For example, an automotive project manager starts as an engineer, a software development project manager starts as a developer, and so on.
Speaking of skills, project managers must bring the following acumen to the table:
- Knowledge of Waterfall, Scrum, and Agile
- Managing risks
- Hands-on expertise in PM tools like Gantt charts, Jira, Asana, etc.
- Money management
- Ability to understand technology quickly
- Ability to apply business management concepts like Skill Will Matrix.
You also need to pass one or two global project management certifications like:
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
- Professional Scrum Master (PSM I)
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
Until now, you have learned the skills, training, acumen, and educational qualifications needed to succeed as a project manager. However, you need to sign up for an appropriate online course from the following list to organize your project management learnings and pass certifications:
Project Management for Beginners-Udemy
Google Project Management-Coursera
Project Management Principles and Practices Specialization-Coursera
Project Management Specialization-Coursera
Become a Project Manager Learning Path-LinkedIn
Introduction to Project Management-edX
IT Project Management Professional Certificate-edX
Product Manager Vs Project Manager: Which Is Better?
Among MBA and college graduates, the product manager role is the most sought-after career. According to a Dec 13, 2021 report from Glassdoor, the average annual salary of a product manager could be up to $127,496 including base pay and additional pay.
However, an entry-level product manager can earn as low as $76K/year. Now, depending on experience and certifications, the salary could be as high as $216K/year.
You can start as an associate product manager. Then work diligently through your career path to acquire extraordinary skills and instincts that could make you the Chief Product Officer or CPO of a company. Then, instead of managing one product or service, you need to oversee all the product/service development projects in the organization.
On the flip side, you can earn an average wage of $84,970 annually as a project manager. The entry-level salary range is $53K/year and could go up to $137K/year. This salary data is according to the same Glassdoor report published on Dec 13, 2021.
However, you can get a much better salary if you could secure a job with enterprises like Meta (up to $200,903/yr), Brocade (up to $199,935/yr), Tencent (up to $195,229/yr), Google (up to $193,048/yr), NVIDIA (up to $188,369/y), and Logitech (up to $185,453/yr).
The project manager’s role is all about completing projects successfully and climbing the ladder of designations. You can start as a trainee project manager and become Chief Operating Officer or VP of Operations.
From the monetary aspect, it looks product manager’s career is better in terms of compensation, perks, and benefits. However, at the top level, a project manager can control the entire business operation while a product manager simply oversees products/services.
Skilled, self-driven, and responsible product, as well as project managers, are the two must-have talents that every business requires. You have distinctive roles as a project and product manager.
Every product manager vs project manager discussion ends with a conclusion that both are necessary to deliver business operations regularly, innovate new products/services, and grow into the future.
Depending on your education, skills, job experiences, and career goals, choose one that suits you the best and aim to become an ace in the industry.
You may also be interested in this discussion of project manager vs resource manager that clearly identifies the differences between these two careers.