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?
Projects don't have to be short-term; they can be long-term. The only requirement for a project is:
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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?."
Product managers care about the product, project managers about the project.
Better explained: to make a project go on, project managers have to handle people, resources, clients. Product managers, instead, are there to assure the product is good, which means they should have some tech skill affinity with the product they work on (ergonomics, design, materials if the product is a chair; programming, UI, UX if the product is an app, etc.)
Product managers also make analyses about competitors and keep themselves updated about new products of the same category. Their work is 'external'.
Surely, a product manager also has the role of a project manager but with some other tasks and skills added.
Project management answer: when can I have the product?
Product management answer: what should the product look like?
Product Management is the process of delivering the best product for an identified market taking into consideration technical and commercial constraints.
An assumption of Product Management is that market and user requirements shift over time, so the process of improvement is never complete - it is ongoing.
Project Management is not limited to delivering products, and project deliverables are normally more clearly defined/understood in advance compared to products. Hence the assumption that projects can be completed in time.