These two words sound similar and many people even use them interchangeably, however they are quite distinct.
In the world of software and IT, every project however big or small requires both product and project management. For the very small projects, however, the same person will typically perform both roles and they often take a small percentage of the overall time invested in that project.
But for larger projects these can become full time roles in and of themselves. If misunderstood, a project can become a huge failure, but if understood and executed well, you can achieve a wild success.
But first, some definitions:
Project Management. Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, securing and managing resources to bring about the successful completion of a specific project. Think of it as keeping the "trains on time."
Product Management. Product management is the discipline of planning, forecasting and marketing of a product at all stages of the product lifecycle. Think of this as planning the "design of the train, train routes, schedules, ticket pricing, etc."
You can see from the above definitions, these are very different disciplines.
The Project Manager is primarily interested in and focused on:
- KYC - Know Your Customer
- Product features / benefits
- Competing products/services
- Sales / distribution
As you can see, the Product Manager is the subject matter expert across multiple functions (marketing, sales, engineering, finance, etc.). Success is predicated on having a great product that "wow's" the customer that is appropriately priced and efficiently distributed.
Great Product Managers are seasoned veterans. They have industry-specific knowledge and a broad portfolio beyond engineering. They obsess about the customer experience and are keen to monetize their product optimally.
Great Project Managers are skilled in the science of development and have unmatched attention to detail. They know that good news travels fast and bad news travels faster. They are expert communicators and they know that the devil is in the detail.
At ExtensionEngine, we pride ourselves on recruiting not only just great engineers and quality assurance professionals, but also outstanding Project and Product Managers.