What Is the Difference Between a Product Manager and a Project Manager?

Posted by Maziar Adl
Maziar Adl
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Product management and project management are both critical roles within a manufacturing company. Although they both have fundamental responsibilities in overseeing the product manufacturing process, it is the scope of the responsibility that sets them apart.


The Role of a Product Manager

The product manager's key role is to understand the company vision and to take the necessary steps to realize these goals. He does this in three ways:


Evaluating Gaps and Opportunities in the Market

A product manager must analyze the current product portfolio to assess how the product line is performing. By examining the product lineup and analyzing the market, the product manager is better able to identify potential new products to build. 

Product comparison and competitive analysis tools help the product manager make product decisions based on reliable quantitative data. The fundamental goal of these analyses is to ensure that a company's portfolio contains products that align with the vision. Customer feedback on existing products also provides valuable insight into product features that are desirable to the consumer.


Defining Which Products to Build

Illustration: Path to TargetThe product manager will decide which product to build during the product ideation and concept development process. Their decision will be based on identifying key features that will make the product more desirable to the consumer. 

In addition, to keep the product offering current and aligned with the company goals, they must also assess the product portfolio. Are there any products that are underperforming and should be discontinued? What type of feature updates should be made to an existing product to improve performance? Comparative and competitive analysis using product roadmap tools offers unbiased quantitative data on which to base decisions.

To assist with decision-making, a product manager will rely on the expertise of his product teams in providing solutions for improved products. Customer feedback also provides valuable insights, so liaising with the customer success team is crucial.

Once the product has been decided upon, the product manager must put the product strategy into place. The strategy will define the steps needed to take the product to market. Roadmapping tools make it easier to implement and showcase the product strategy to all stakeholders, while Product Roadmapping Management (PRM) tools create more effective ways to manage those roadmaps. Gocius PRM software is designed with manufacturers in mind. From tools that help define goals, map out future feature updates, and display key metrics for easier analysis, Gocious makes product management easier throughout the product life cycle. 


Overseeing the production process

Illustration: Teamwork Putting Puzzles Together Overseeing the production process is an important role for the product manager to ensure that things are moving according to the set milestones and that deadlines are being met. A great product manager knows that success is dependent on teamwork.

Regular check-ins and cross-collaboration with product teams are vital to staying on top of the process. In order to lead effectively, a product manager must exhibit strong communication skills. They must: 

  • Provide relevant and timely information to their teams.
  • Promote two-way discussion.
  • Show empathy and display good listening skills.

Due to the unpredictable nature of the product manufacturing environment, agile teams who are able to pivot quickly and modify a plan in order to meet deadlines and customer wants are vital. This ability is improved when a product manager is in tune with the progress of each department. 

Appreciating team members and building strong relationships goes a long way to boosting morale across the organization and the product manager is the fundamental person to do this. When product teams are committed and aligned with the company's goals, efficiency, and productivity increase.


Product Roadmap Management Tools

A product manager needs various tools, including Product Roadmap Management software, to carry out their role effectively. Communicating the strategy and overseeing the production schedule is made easy with product roadmaps that define the process and identify the goals. 

Gocious PRM Screenshot: Plan Details


The Role of a Project Manager

While the product manager's role encompasses managing the entire product portfolio for the organization, the project manager's role is more focused. Project managers are responsible for ensuring that certain aspects of the production process meet the goals as defined by the product manager on a specific timeline. 


Manage a Specific Team

A project manager is responsible for specific projects within the company. In the case of the discrete manufacturing industry, multiple departments, such as design, engineering, finance, and marketing, will have their own project managers in the top position of that department who will liaise directly with the product manager.


Communicate with the Product Manager

The project manager oversees the timeline and progression of the product development. While a project manager’s priority is to stay on budget and on schedule, any options to change the scope of the product in order to meet a deadline must be discussed with the product manager. Together, both managers can work to ensure they deliver the best product that makes the customer happy and as close to the timeline and budget as possible.

Regular meetings and collaboration between the project manager and the product manager are vital to ensure alignment with goals and deadlines. Cross-collaboration between project managers of different departments allows greater understanding and transparency between teams. 


Meets Budget and Time Deadlines

Illustration: TeamworkWith goals clearly defined by the product manager using the product roadmap, it is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure these goals are met. 

The production process relies on different departments working to ensure the finished product comes together on time. The project manager is responsible for monitoring all tasks through to completion for their specific department. 

They must also allocate project resources effectively. Production delays and budget overages negatively impact the product strategy, so a product manager must be able to depend on effective leadership and management from all their project managers.  


Three Reasons Why Product and Project Managers Need to Work Together Effectively

Bringing a successful product to launch requires multiple stakeholders working collaboratively to meet this goal. Product and project managers must work well together for several reasons.

  1. While the product manager decides which products to build and outlines and communicates their strategy for the organization, the project manager will put the plan into action.

  2. Managing the discrete manufacturing process is complex. One person can't oversee the production in its entirety, so delegating responsibility to effective project managers helps to ensure tasks are completed on time and within budget.

  3. Discrete product manufacturing is unpredictable. In recent years we have seen just how much supply chain disruptions negatively impact manufacturing businesses and their consumers. When you have key personnel responsible for a specific area of the production process, navigating volatility becomes manageable as they can pivot quickly to provide solutions that will mitigate the risks. 

Collaboration is Easy With PRM Software 

Gocious Product Roadmap Management software is made with the needs of your product manager in mind. The collaborative tools allow ease of communication between your product manager and the project managers they depend on to realize the company goals. 

Book your free personalized demo to find out how Gocious can work for your management teams. 

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