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Product manager vs. project manager: what’s the difference?

| April 17, 2019
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Product team roles are notoriously varied from company to company and even within organizations. As companies continue to scale human insight across teams, questions often come up about who does what, especially when looking at product manager vs. project manager roles.

While every company is different, there are some key differences between product and project managers. Understanding the differences will help teams across the organization—including product teams—better understand roles and responsibilities, ultimately improving efficiency while helping teams get great experiences in front of customers faster.

Product manager vs. project manager

Not only do the two titles sound similar, many people like to shorten things up, resulting in many folks having the same “PM” title, while having very different roles and responsibilities, which can cause a lot of confusion.

Product managers

Product managers, as the title implies, manage aspects of the product itself. Product managers are typically responsible for the vision and strategy for a specific product, including the product roadmap, and will help guide the rest of the team on executing on those goals.

As part of their role, product managers are also focused on prioritizing features, ensuring product-market fit, and managing the product development lifecycle overall.

It’s helpful to think of product managers as being responsible for a particular product throughout its existence. Product managers will follow their products through enhancements and updates, continually testing with customers to ensure that their products are delivering the best possible experience.

Project managers

Project managers are similarly responsible for a wide range of deliverables, however, their focus is on broader project level with a set start and end date, rather than on a particular product itself.

A project manager may get involved with aspects of a product, but only as it relates to a larger initiative, like the launch of a new product or feature. The project manager will be focused on keeping the project running smoothly, meeting deadlines, and staying under budget.

Once a project is wrapped up, project managers will move on to a new project, while a product manager would still be focused on iterating and improving on a specific product.

Further reading

If you’d like to learn more about product roles, check out these resources!

What is product management series

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