A partner manager is there to maintain relationships. What's the difference between the partner manager role and that of a project manager?
A project manager's goal is to ensure project closure. A project manager is teleological. and consequentialist The project manager's worries are scope/schedule/quality.
I don't work as a partner manager, but I suspect that the role is far more open ended. Partner managers should, I believe, work to sustain and improve a partnership. A partner manager's worries involve competition, competitive advantage and trust.
While researching the question, I found "What makes a good Partner manager", which has this excellent quote,
[Partner management] is also not a project management task. If you go about trying to manage a relationship as a set of activities to be controlled through some formal or semi-formal mechanism, you will not only alienate staff in the partner company, but you will stifle opportunism and innovation in the relationship.
Roles Can Vary
Definitions are tricky, because while some roles have well-defined boundaries, other roles mean whatever the companies want them to mean. I've known an executive during the dot-com bubble whose official title was "Senior Web Monkey," and known at least two "Senior Vice Presidents" at major banks who were hands-on managers of IT departments but had only one person reporting to them. Your mileage may vary.
Contrasting Role Definitions
With that said, a Partner Manager is often a sales-channel manager who manages the relationships between a company and their channel partners. I'm not truly sure that "partner" is really the right term, as it's often management-speak for "preferred resellers."
More formally, Wikipedia defines business partners as:
A business partner is a commercial entity with which another commercial entity has some form of alliance...A business partner can [also be a] channel intermediary[.]
A project manager, on the other hand, is primarily responsible for project process. Wikipedia defines the typical responsibilities of a project manager role in this way:
The specific responsibilities of the Project Manager may vary depending on the industry, the company size, the company maturity, and the company culture. However, there are some responsibilities that are common to all Project Managers...
- Developing the project plan
- Managing the project stakeholders
- Managing the project team
- Managing the project risk
- Managing the project schedule
- Managing the project budget
- Managing the project conflicts
Both Roles Include Managing Relationships
Both roles are similar in that they involve managing relationships; the differentiator is in who the relationships are with. However, the roles are also fundamentally different in their organizational purpose, and require different deliverables from each role.