Product Manager Vs. Project Manager: What’s The Difference?

By Mel-Leo Rosal - Aug. 2, 2022

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Both of these roles are high-level management positions with many of the same responsibilities and duties, so you may wonder: what exactly is the difference between them? Is it just a matter of title or specialization?

While it’s easy enough to misread one title as the other, that doesn’t make them interchangeable. Product managers and project managers do have different specialties, but it’s more than that. And it’s actually in their titles:

Product managers are in charge of a product, while project managers are in charge of a project. That may seem overly simplistic, but it’s the true difference between them.

While the project that project managers manage may be something like the launch of a new product, that’s not their only role. They can also be in charge of transitioning from one system to another or oversee a development being built.

Product managers are involved in the sales, marketing, and improvement process of a product.

Key Takeaways:

Product Manager Project Manager
Product managers are involved in a product’s entire life cycle. This means that there usually aren’t start and end dates. Project managers oversee a project from start to finish, then move on to the next project.
Product management is a high-level management position that pulls in marketing, sales, development, and product testing. Project managers are also high-level management, but their main duties are setting timetables, creating goals, and putting a team together to complete them.
Product management is largely on the business side of management, making sure that the product meets sales goals, has a marketing strategy, and is improved. Project management is more on the operations side. Someone in this role is responsible for making sure that things get done on time and within budget.
Product managers average an annual salary of $114,000 per year. Project managers’ salary average is $96,000 per year.

What Is a Product Manager?

A product manager manages a company’s product or products. Product management usually doesn’t have a set start and end like project management – product managers are involved in the product’s life cycle continuously.

The majority of what product managers do could be considered marketing. They research market trends and conditions and set the rules on how the product should be introduced to the public and what should and shouldn’t be part of its advertising and marketing strategy.

It isn’t all marketing based, however, as they’re heavily involved with the sales team and the business side of the product as well. They make sure it’s hitting sales goals and will help to make alterations if it isn’t – including pricing. They also help with handling business operations and deals involving the product.

As they’re in charge of the product, product managers may also be involved in improvement and alterations to an existing product.

What Is a Project Manager?

Like product managers, project managers are found in almost every industry. Project managers are the ones to make sure that timetables are met and that the product or service is completed to specifications. They’re also responsible for working out timelines, handling resources, and making sure the different teams are able to work together or at least in parallel.

Project managers are much more specific and goal-oriented than product managers. Their projects have set start and end dates, as well as a set budget. They have to deliver the project on time and under budget – if at all possible.

This means that they need to do a lot of planning, setting timetables, as well as taking costs into account. They’re also the ones who will set goals or metrics and make sure that the different teams are meeting them. And if they aren’t, they have to figure out why and how to rectify the problem.

Tips for Being an Effective Product Manager

If you want to work as a product manager, here are some things to consider:

  • Product managers need a strong understanding of the market and business practices in order to effectively market and sell a product.

  • This is a highly creative role, and product managers are expected to have an idea or suggestion for every situation.

  • Being a product manager requires constantly being in communication with others, bringing different departments together – such as marketing, sales, and development – and setting them on the same track. This means you need to be very effective at communication and a creative problem solver.

  • Product managers are the ones who rise or fall based on how the product does. You have to be willing to accept blame, share credit, and be flexible and ready to make alterations if something isn’t working.

Tips for Being an Effective Project Manager

If you’re thinking about becoming a project manager, here are a few things to consider:

  • Project management is all about juggling different responsibilities but also being willing to let others do their jobs. A micromanaging project manager prevents anything from getting done.

  • In order to effectively manage a project, it’s imperative that you understand the parameters. You need to make sure that you understand exactly what’s being asked of you, under what time constraints, and with what budget.

  • Project managers are the ones who set the timetables and goals for individual teams under their oversight. You need to be organized, good at communication, and willing to take advice from experts.

  • A large part of a project manager’s job is making sure that everything’s done on time and to make sure that the teams are working together. This means you need to be attentive, ready to make changes, and unafraid to take the blame and shield your team when necessary.

  • There are several different project management methods that can help with organization. Such as:

    • Agile

    • Waterfall

    • Scrum

    • Strategic

Product Manager vs. Project Manager FAQ

  1. Is project management part of product management?

    Yes, project management is often part of product management. Product management is usually more fluid and ongoing than project management, and there are several projects under the product management umbrella.

    This can be an improvement or alteration to a product (this is continuous if it’s software or technological) or something specific, like a product launch.

  2. Which is better: product manager or project manager?

    The answer to this question is largely subjective. Product managers typically make more money than product managers, but not by a tremendous amount. Project managers usually have a set start and end date, so if you’re highly goal-oriented, the project manager would likely be better for you.

    Product managers are more involved in marketing and sales. If that’s your area of expertise, then product management would likely suit you better.

  3. Can a product manager be a project manager?

    Yes, a product manager can be a project manager. However, they are different roles for a reason, so a product manager shouldn’t be both a product manager and a project manager – that’s doing two jobs for one salary. Though in smaller companies, you may end up doing a bit of both.

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Mel-Leo Rosal

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