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Growth Hacks: Project Management vs. Product Management

Learn whether project management vs product management can help your business grow. Steal tips and techniques from both to supercharge your business.

Motion Blog
at Motion
Oct 16, 2023
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Trying to supercharge your business growth but feel like you're hitting a wall? The issue might not be your strategy, but your approach to execution.

The solution could be mastering elements from two divergent fields: project and product management.

While project managers are pros at guiding a team through the complexities of time-bound projects, product managers are the maestros of long-term product strategy and evolution.

Imagine harnessing both sets of skills to overcome business challenges and spot opportunities.

Here’s how.

Project management vs product management: A brief overview

Project management and product management are distinct but related fields.

A project is a one-off endeavor with a defined start and an end, like building a mobile dating app.

Project management focuses on achieving that endeavor within a set time frame. It involves detailed planning and team coordination to complete defined tasks.

On the other hand, a product is something you offer customers, like the dating app itself.

Product management deals with a product's entire lifecycle. The aim is for long-term product success and evolution to meet market needs and continue to turn a profit.

While projects have clear finish lines, products evolve.

Both need strong leadership and organization, but apply these skills in different ways. Project managers meet time-bound goals. Product managers focus on the product vision and foster long-term growth.

Project manager vs product manager: comparing the roles

Before diving deeper into the project vs. product management methodologies, let's look at the differences between product manager vs project manager roles.

What is a project manager’s role?

The goal of a project manager is to lead the project team to achieve set business objectives in a defined time frame.

They define project objectives and tasks, are responsible for project planning, and lead teams through the project lifecycle.

A project manager is also responsible for resource, time, and cost management. They ensure everyone has what they need to complete the project on time and budget.

It's also the project manager's job to communicate changes and progress. This keeps everyone aligned with project objectives.

The role also involves risk assessment. Project managers need to be proactive in recognizing potential pitfalls. It's their job to create a risk management plan to sidestep or mitigate potential project risks.

What is a product manager’s role?

A product manager guides a product through its entire lifecycle.

Product managers are responsible for creating the strategic direction for a product or service and crafting roadmaps for product iterations and changes over time.

Product managers must stay tuned to market trends and user feedback for feature planning. They also need to track key performance metrics for data-driven decision-making.

It's also up to product managers to maximize ROI. They balance the time, budget, and expertise needed to create a product against its potential profitability.

Since product managers oversee every phase, they need to coordinate across departments. This could include developers, markets, customer support teams, etc.

Like project managers, product managers must keep stakeholders updated on progress and changes to the product or service.

Project management vs. product management: similarities and differences

Looking to borrow techniques from these management styles? Here are some key similarities and differences.

Similarities between project and product management

Explore the common ground between project and product management. Understand the overlapping best practices that lead teams to success.

  • Problem-solving: Project and product management requires dynamic problem-solving acumen and adaptability to help teams resolve the inevitable issues that pop up.
  • Team leadership: Often, both practices use cross-functional teams to achieve their goals. This demands excellent leadership skills.
  • Stakeholder communication: Project and product managers must align with stakeholders. This means negotiating resources, agreeing on deliverables, and regularly updating key players.

Differences between project and product management

Understanding the key differences between project and product management will help you decide which tactics best fit your goals.

  • Time frame: Project management has distinct start and end dates. Product management is an ongoing process that extends through the entire product lifecycle.
  • Scope: In project management, detailed project plans outline specific deliverables and objectives. The scope of the project is defined in the initiating phase. While requirements may change, scope changes mean more work (which, in turn, can affect the project budget and timeline). In contrast, product management scope evolves. This evolution is often based on customer feedback, market research, and business goals.
  • Metrics: Generally, project management uses quantitative metrics like project costs and delivery times. Product management uses a broader range of metrics. These often include qualitative measures like customer satisfaction and user experience.
  • Decision-making: Project decisions are generally based on a predefined strategic plan. Changes to the plan are carefully managed to fit in with the timelines and requirements. The decision-making process is more fluid in product management. Decisions are made as needs change throughout the product lifecycle.
  • Final output: Project management aims for on-time, on-budget project completion. Success is gauged by meeting set deliverables. Product management looks for long-term product success. This is measured by ongoing market relevance and company growth.

Project and product management skills to help you grow your business

The skills used for both project and product management can help you streamline business operations and lead to successful products or services. Here are some ways of working you might consider for your business.

Project manager role and responsibilities

‎What to steal from project management for managing your business

Consider how you could incorporate these project management skills into your day-to-day operations:

  • Strategic planning: Think strategically and systematically about tackling your work. Consider everything, including a budget and the project resources you need to get the job done.
  • Coordinated communication: Provide channels (and tools) for your team to collaborate. Encourage transparency. Keep everyone in the loop at all times.
  • Collaborative leadership: Cross-functional leadership demands that you coordinate across teams and stakeholders. Establish protocols and tools to foster and facilitate transparency and collaboration.
  • Problem-solving: Train yourself and your team on different ways of approaching problems. Create risk assessments and identify common bottlenecks. Use data to help with the decision-making process.
  • Scope management: Watch for scope creep, which adds unplanned tasks and costs. Create a clear plan at the start to use as a baseline.
  • Resource planning: Make sure you have the time, money, and resources to deliver quality work. Don't overcommit your people.
  • Team building: For innovative products or services, build diverse, cross-functional teams to avoid groupthink and get different perspectives.

What to steal from product management for managing your business

Incorporating these product management skills can help you drive product to market fit, which is vital for any business.

Product manager role and responsibilities
  • Strategic thinking: Use strategic roadmaps to help clarify your vision (and prioritize resources).
  • Market research: Do market research and competitive analysis. This will help you tailor your products to your customers.
  • User experience (UX) design: Prioritize user experience. Use data-driven insights to understand what makes your customers tick. Exceed your customer's expectations.
  • Testing: Test your ideas so you can follow through on what works best. Use hard data to drive decisions.
  • Financial planning: Financial acumen is critical. Balancing budgets and understanding ROI is integral to the success of any product or service.
  • Stakeholder management: Set and manage your stakeholder expectations. Define requirements and deliverables upfront.

Tips and tools to steal from project managers and product managers for your work

Improve your growth initiatives with these hands-on methods used by project and product managers.

Set SMART goals

Create Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals. This goal-setting style helps you set realistic goals and lets you focus your efforts and track progress.

Leverage Agile methodologies

Agile’s iterative process and feedback cycles make it easier to stay flexible as market or project conditions change.

Use AI-powered project management software

AI-powered tools can help you streamline planning, prioritization, and task management. Less manual admin gives you and your team more time to work on the important things.

Trust the data

Use KPI dashboards to track essential metrics like project progress or current status. Make better decisions based on hard evidence.

Create a plan B

Use a structured approach for identifying and managing risks so unforeseen issues don't blindside you. Incorporate the RACI matrix and regular risk audits.

Mind your stakeholders

Your success relies partly on meeting stakeholders in the (proverbial) middle. Develop a clear communication plan to keep them in the loop and solicit their input.

Master project and product management with Motion

While project and product management offer unique approaches to creating and delivering products or services, they both emphasize the importance of planning.

However, planning (and tracking against those plans) can be time-intensive. That's why a lot of project and product managers use Motion.

Cut planning time by up to 90% with Motion's AI-powered scheduling and task prioritization. Try Motion for free today.

Motion Blog
Written by Motion Blog