Product Managers are not Project Managers

Product Managers have an identity crisis.

We’re often mistaken as Project Managers. Whilst Project Management is sometimes a function of the role, our scope is wider than managing tasks and people to deadlines. Product Management is an area of expertise that is not well understood in Australia. Perhaps it’s because each company does Product Management differently.

In some companies the Product Management team is more closely aligned with marketing, while at other companies the team leans closer to the Engineering or Development teams. This is often a reflection of the overall structure of the company. As a result, the actual day to day functions of a Product Manager are often misunderstood. Regardless of where the Product Management team is placed in any organisation a few things come to mind when understanding the differences between Product and Project Management.

  1. Product Managers are more outwardly facing. We focus on customer needs and market changes. We do not (and should not) create requirements in isolation from external factors.
  2. Unlike a Project Manager, Product Managers make decisions that affect the “end product” during the product development phase.
  3. Product Managers tend to have some level of financial accountability for the product. We determine the price of products which shapes key performance metrics and ultimately, where the product is positioned in the market.
  4. Product Management is an “on-going” function. It does not end when the final product is delivered. A product is managed through a life-cycle from conception to end. A Project Manager may be a contributor at various points of the product life-cycle but a Product Manager is there for the long haul.