Both product managers and project managers are vital to the success of a company or project. While both have many similarities, they’re two distinct roles. And while you might have heard both terms a lot, the difference between the two roles often isn’t explored as much as it should.
Keep reading to find out the difference between product and project managers, the duties of each, and how you can do your best work as each—especially with the help of UserVitals.
What are Product Managers?
In development, the product is the whole product or service you’re offering; it goes through its own life cycle and many differentiations. This means that product managers are responsible for overseeing the entire product, not just a small section of its development.
A product manager’s role is much more strategic than a project manager. They set overall product direction and are responsible for understanding user needs and translating them into product goals and features. This means that their focus is largely on research and interpreting that research to define and benefit the product
The most basic skill needed for managing a product is product sense. This means knowing when to make changes to your project, such as moving it from alpha testing to beta testing, or adding or removing specific features.
Product managers are also responsible for managing the profits and loss of a project, meaning they have to closely collaborate with many different product teams (e.g. sales, marketing, customer success) in order to help the product function well.
The Product Manager’s Duties
The product manager has many different tasks. Here are a few of the main ones:
- Talking with users and gathering feedback to better understand user needs
- Identifying problems and potential opportunities for features
- Creating a product roadmap and defining different features for development
- Prioritizing development tickets and the overall work cycle
What are Project Managers?
In contrast to a product, a project is a smaller subjection of the product, and has a clearly defined end goal and outcome. This means that while the project manager might have a smaller scope than the product manager, they have the same level of responsibilities—they’re just more specific.
Compared to a product manager, a project manager’s role is much more tactical and focused on executing tasks. Their role is focused on taking the product manager’s vision and developing and planning a project timeline around it. This includes all important goals and deadlines.
Essentially, they are responsible for bringing their project to completion within the specified budget, timeline and quality.
The Project Manager’s Duties
The project manager’s duties often fall within three categories:
- Risk and issue management (e.g. recognizing and minimizing potential risks)
- Resource scheduling and planning (e.g. setting start and end dates for tasks, assigning team members, and managing daily task lists and materials)
- Scope management (e.g. balancing time, budget and quality within the initial set outcomes)
In addition to this, the project manager might also help the product manager gather up user requirements, but they will have less say in defining and prioritizing features based on this information.
How to Be a Good Product Manager
There are many important tips and platforms to keep in mind when doing project management. Here are some of our favourites.
Define Success at the Beginning
You need to give your team something to work towards at the beginning of the project. Otherwise, they might misunderstand the end goal or work with different objectives in mind. This can also include specific metrics or plans for improvement to give your team more clarity on what success means for your product at every level of development.
Don’t Make Unnecessary Concessions
A product manager will get requests from all kinds of outside forces, from stakeholders to customers. One of the main roles of the product manager is to figure out which of these requests to focus on and which ones should be addressed.
The truth is that not every request will be beneficial for your product; it may only benefit a single customer, or none at all. Likewise, not every adjustment or feature request from a higher up will be beneficial for your product or even feasible. You’ll need to decide which requests offer the most for your users within your set time schedule and budget.
Part of this process can be using A/B tests to show whether an idea is beneficial to your product, or simply creating a request project that depersonalizes saying “no” to a customer or stakeholder.
Though risk is an unfortunate part of every product and project, it’s important to try and eliminate or minimize risk as much as possible, both in your product and in your team itself.
This can be done in part through user testing. You can use many online sites to find people to interview remotely, such as UserLytics and UserTesting. If you don’t want to set up interviews, you can also run a simple ad test.
Talk to Different Teams
When you’re a product manager, you can’t just talk to your product team alone. You’ll also need to build good relationships with your product’s marketing, sales and engineering teams to foster communication between all of your teams.
Make sure to ask questions about their work processes and current workflow to keep everyone on the same page. This can help keep all of your company’s teams synchronised and your work flowing smoothly.
Product Management Software
One of the most necessary pieces of software for any product manager is a product management platform. These help track your high-level requirements, document your product vision and effectively communicate your strategy into smaller, understandable bits (e.g. things like priorities and schedules) to your team.
Product Managers should also have a product roadmap platform. This helps them communicate their vision and plan to both their team and to stakeholders and customers. This includes things like goals, rough timeframes, and what features to prioritize.
There are many different platforms you can choose from, but here are a couple of our favourite.
ProductBoard helps you decide what to prioritize what to build next by helping you understand what your customers need and communicating those needs to your team. It can help you build boards for your team, product roadmaps and help you improve your workflows by pushing information to your other platforms.
UserVitals is an all-in-one customer feedback and product management platform. It helps you collect feedback from all over the internet via a Chrome extension, customer portal and many integrations, and organize them into Stories that can help inform your product vision and decide what features to prioritize next in your roadmap. UserVitals also supports creating changelogs and roadmaps for your customers to stay up-to-date with your product.
Sign up for UserVitals today and make receiving feedback from customers and interacting with them even easier.
How to Be a Good Project Manager
There are many important tips and software platforms to keep in mind when managing your project as well. Here are some of our favourites.
Always Keep Your End Goal in Mind
When managing a project, you need to have a clearly-defined end goal in mind. This will help you stay focused from the beginning and help keep you from getting sidetracked by unnecessary tasks.
Get Familiar with Different Project Management Methodologies
There are many different project management methodologies. While you may choose not to use many or any of them, knowing how they work can help you incorporate some of their aspects into your own workflow and help boost your productivity.
Project management methodologies are the tools, techniques, processes and best practices that help someone through a set of tasks. These can be applied to almost any project in any industry. Getting familiar with these methodologies—such as Scrum, Kanban and Agile—can help you do better and more efficient work wherever you go.
Keep Your Teams’ Strengths and Weaknesses in Mind
Every team—and every team member—will have its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Knowing these and structuring your team and project around them can help make your workflows much more efficient and powerful than before.
Say one team member is great at hitting deadlines, but is having trouble with a specific task. Pair them with a team member who tends to get sidetracked but aces similar tasks. There are many ways you can effectively “hack” your team’s productivity in this way.
Facilitate Good Communication
The single most important part of any team is communication. Without it, team members can’t work together to get work done, and may get off track or do the same work twice. As the project manager, it’s important to make sure that your team communicates both with each other and with other project teams to stay focused and collaborate together.
Every project manager needs to have a good project management platform. These help track and manage your project’s details, such as details, deadlines, tasks and any outside resources needed to help keep everyone on the same page and boost workflow.
Here are some of our favourite project management platforms:
Monday helps you plan, execute and track projects of any size and collaborate seamlessly with other team members. It’s also very customizable and flexible to your team so you can get the most out of your team and do more work.
ClickUp helps bring your team together to do its best work by helping facilitate communication and collaboration and making it easy for you to plan and track tasks. This will allow you to boost your workflow and stay on track with your project’s progress.