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Product Manager vs. Project Manager

The roles and responsibilities of a product manager and a project manager can vary wildly from industry to industry and even company to company. However, do not let this shifting definition confuse you — they still have their differences, and both are vital to the success of a business. Generally, a project manager is in charge of making sure projects are completed according to a schedule, while a product manager is responsible for the development of a product from beginning to end. Here at Pantheras, we offer our services as an expert product management consulting agency. 

Still unsure which one you need? We will take an in-depth look at the differences between product manager vs. project manager in order to help you figure out who you need to hire for your business.

Project Manager

The goal of the project manager is the completion of a project. It does not matter what the project is specifically — it can be anything from a year-long design phase to the construction of a building and even internal projects (e.g. building a back-end tool for a company). What matters to the project manager is overseeing their project to its completion within the defined scope, budget, and schedule. They keep track of resources, communicate with the people involved, ensure progress fits within the time constraints, and listen to the interests and directives of stakeholders.    

A project manager does not need to answer the “what” and “why” of the project they handle. They just need to concern themselves with the “when” and the “how.” In project management, it is all about day-to-day minutiae, a constant stream of checking boxes on a to-do list.

Product Manager

The product manager, on the other hand, is all about the “whats” and “whys.” Their aim is to create a product and see it through to its completion. A product manager always has to keep the big picture in mind — they need to research their market, brainstorm product ideas, and present their ideas to stakeholders. They decide the features of the product and how to best implement them. When they have a product they want to market, they have to be able to communicate their vision to stakeholders and convince them of its merits. After it has been approved, the product has to be built to specification. While a project manager typically has to work within a defined scope, a product manager instead constantly evaluates the budget and the timeline during development and adjusts it when necessary. 

When the product hits the market, the product manager is also responsible for monitoring sales and customer feedback for knowledge they can use in future product development.

At Pantheras, we know the market intimately, with over twenty years of experience in various sectors. No matter your product, your market, or your desired outcomes, our product consulting experts can deliver tailor-made solutions. We offer the following services:  

  • Product Positioning & Transformation 
  • Digital Product Development
  • Product Planning, Building, & Developing Teams

Key Takeaways

The differences between a product manager vs. a project manager lie primarily in their functions and responsibilities. A project manager is handed a project to deliver — they break down the overall goal into smaller tasks, plan the timeline of the project, allocate the resources needed, monitor the completion of the various tasks involved, communicate progress to stakeholders, and most importantly, ensure that the project is completed in time. A product manager creates a product from the ground up — they conduct market research, set the product vision (including all the nitty-gritty details of who, what, when, where, why, and how), communicate that vision to stakeholders, develop a strategic plan, oversee the creation of the product and adjust the plan when necessary, and monitor how well the product does on the market afterward. 

In addition, the project manager typically has an inward, detail-oriented outlook (coordinating with internal teams and managing deadlines) that has to follow a defined plan. The product manager, in contrast, has an outward, strategic, and high-level outlook (researching the market, the customers, the competitors) that has to be flexible in order to keep up with constantly shifting market demands. 

While we can continue to draw lines between their definitions, in reality, it is rarely clear-cut. Some businesses use the terms interchangeably, in others, there is a significant overlap between the roles. However, at the end of the day, both types of managers are vital to the success of a business — product managers can tell you what to build and why, and project managers can figure out how to build it.

If you are in need of expert help for your product management process, contact us today at Pantheras. As an Australian digital transformation agency, we partner with you to solve the challenges facing your business with expert talent, smart processes, and cutting-edge technology.