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From a cursory survey, they appear extremely similar.

Is this the case? Other than Projects tending to be short-term and Products tending to be ongoing endeavours, is there a difference in the two?

If so, what are the differences?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Projects don't have to be short-term; they can be long-term. The only requirement for a project is:

  1. it must produce something, and
  2. it must have an end. If it takes 2 years or 2 weeks to finish it can still be a project, and fall under the domain of the project manager.

I tend to think of product managers as being a special case of the project manager, a role that does do some traditional project management functions, but with a very-heavy emphasis on the marketing side. So if you think in PMI terms, you have your traditional knowledge areas (e.g. HR Management, procurement), but to be considered a product manager, you need to have a management plan for an extra knowledge area: marketing.

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What's interesting is some products do have an end, or "end of life" period if they're eclipsed by something that makes it obsolete. –  jmort253 Aug 1 '12 at 21:07
    
Yeah, good point. –  jdb1a1 Aug 1 '12 at 21:15

While they seem similar, there are distinct differences.

Product Management has to do with the 'product' itself - design, features, audience, pricing, marketing, profitability, etc.

Project Management focuses on delivering the product.

Example - The intended market needs to be researched - the act of researching (who to research, how to conduct, what info to gather) is product related. The 'hows' would be project related - is there a timeline, a set budget for research, specific resources, etc. Project management won't tell you how or what to research. It will manage the research 'process' once those other questions are answered.

So product management has to do with the decisions about the product itself, project management has to do with the decisions about delivering the product.

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Other than Projects tending to be short-term and Products tending to be ongoing endeavours, is there a difference in the two?

The key difference is fairly simple:

  1. Product management: is responsible for discovery and definition of the scope.
  2. Project management: is responsible for execution and delivery of the scope.
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They can be the same and often times product managers are forced to take on the role of Project Managers, but I see the functions as fundamentally different.

In relationship to projects:

Many times your Product Manager will be a project sponsor. They decide the change. They decide what to do, what the requirements are, what the business drivers are, and other heavily business oriented aspects. These are the visionaries and business drivers. They often act as a "Super BA" and, especially if project managers are weak or not present, are forced to be project managers. Most of the ones I know hate it when they are forced to project manage.

Project Management is executing change. Project managers help with planning the change, driving it through to completion, holding scope to the original vision, ect... Sometimes Project Managers are required to act as product managers, when the product managers are not present or are weak. In my experience, this can lead to stunted products as the project focus is on time, schedule, and scope, whereas the product focus is on the external business requirements.

Finally, there are different certifications and training for both. I think the main problem is most people don't really understand what product management does. I certainly didn't even after years of working with them, seemed like a lot of guesswork to me. Then I worked with a crack product manager and got a solid glimpse of what they really do.

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Project managers walk away from a project after a period of time. Product managers are there for life (the life cycle of the product).

Project managers are akin to the midwife - they stay around long enough to bring the product to market.

Product managers are akin to mothers - we define, launch and then nurture the product through all it's stages. See the blog post on Product vs project managers

http://allaboutproductmanagement.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/project-manager-or-product-manager.html

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The main difference:

Projects are short-term endeavors, Products are, most often, not.

Product Managers must have long-term, strategic focus for their work. They seek to answer the question: "Leveraging this product, how do I meet corporate goals of revenue and/or market penetration?."

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-1 (although I can't vote down right now) because I think this is a horrible comparison of Product Management and Project Management. –  Jeach Jan 30 '13 at 20:41

Project management is planning organizing and managing resources, it aligns cross functional teams to complete the project. Product management is a organizational function which helps throughout product life cycle, and it aligns cross functional team to support the product. For information about product management training and certification, see Adaptive Marketing

NOTE @user7388 works for Adaptive Marketing

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Please advise where / how the link shared adds content and value to your answer or please remove it, as it sounds like a pure promotion. Thanks! –  Tiago Cardoso Nov 19 '13 at 13:51

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