August 26, 2020

Product Manager vs Project Manager: The Main Differences

Product Manager vs Project Manager

The essence of being an effective project manager or product manager can be summed up in four words: “The buck stops here!” That quote, popularized by U.S. President Harry Truman, refers to the ability of leaders to make decisions, work collaboratively with trusted advisors, and – ultimately – take responsibility for the outcome of those decisions.


product manager vs project manager
Product vs Project manager

That expression most likely came from the idiom “pass the buck,” which means blaming other people for problems, mistakes, or missed deadlines. The best business leaders, whether they be project managers or product managers, always have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on, in terms of project status, emerging problems, and the roles of team members. 

When you adopt the philosophy of “the buck stops here,” you’re not only displaying the qualities of a strong leader, but you’re also showing yourself that you have what it takes to be a superior project manager. This can be a confidence builder, whether you’re pursuing a career as a project manager or a product manager. The net effect of taking personal responsibility for the outcome of a project is that you’re more likely to focus on both the “big picture” and the individual components. That way, no important detail “slips through the cracks.” 

How to Become a Project Manager 

Project management jobs can be rewarding, both financially and personally, but they can also be competitive. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help make you more marketable and successful in your career. While a degree in business administration or project management is not essential, it can make you more qualified, confident, and hirable as a job candidate.  
 
Project manager certification is another credential that can boost your chances for landing a project manager job or advancing your career. One option for those with little or no experience is the Certified Associate in Project Management examination. This is a good starting point for many project managers since the more advanced Project Management Professional certification requires three to five years of prior working experience to take the test.  
 
If your career goals are focused in the software industry, there are several Scrum certifications that would enhance both your knowledge and expertise in that profession. The Scrum credential can also help you advance as a product manager – a somewhat different career path that has much in common with being a project manager. Many professionals have the qualifications to go in either direction. 

Check out the in-depth article on - Career Path Guide on How To Become A Project Manager 

What is the Role of a Project Manager

roles and responsibilities of project manager
Roles and Responsibilities of the Project Manager

Whether you want to become a project manager, a product manager, or expand your existing skills in the project management field, you generally need to have these characteristics: 
The ability to be highly organized and detail-oriented.

  • Confidence is a vital quality of an effective project manager. You’ll need it to win the trust and cooperation of everyone on your project team. Being self-assured also helps you win the confidence of others, including your client, company executives, and other stakeholders.  

  • Superior written and verbal communication skills will help you immeasurably in the project management field because, among other reasons, people generally do not like surprises. That applies to both the client and members of your project team. While problems are inevitable, they need to be dealt with promptly, directly, and resourcefully. It also helps to anticipate problems before they happen, so you have contingency plans “at the ready” if, and when, they’re needed.  

  • Calmness under pressure is also one of the key qualities needed by a good project manager or product manager. Having the ability to navigate changing conditions gracefully, handle deadline pressure, and tactfully deal with personality conflicts are among the many attributes of a top-notch project manager. Possessing these qualities is a prerequisite for job success in this fast-paced, demanding field. Good “people skills” are essential for making sure everyone is fully on board and committed to working together and getting the project completed properly and on time.  

What is the Role of a Product Manager 

According to CIO magazine, the job of a product manager is a complex, cross-functional role in information technology. Although a product manager’s focus is typically more technical and marketing-oriented than that of a project manager, several aspects of the jobs are strikingly similar. As is the case with project management, being a product manager “is a role that requires you to balance input, concerns, and feedback from multiple departments, key stakeholders, business leaders, customers, and clients.”  

Product managers also need to have a strong grasp of potential risks, develop contingency plans when possible, and clearly communicate those risks to key stakeholders. Other responsibilities of a product manager may include the following:

  • Monitoring the development process
  • Keeping track of industry trends
  • Determining product requirements based on client meetings, research, outreach to subject matter experts
  • Reviewing and correcting implementation strategies

To succeed, product managers also need to possess excellent relationship management skills, an understanding of the software development cycle, and the ability to identify products that are worth spending time, money, and other resources on.  

According to an article on the website Medium, a product manager’s primary focus should be on managing the product, rather than the team. “Your job is to provide guidance on the product, including its market, value proposition, business goals, and key features while building a good rapport with your team.”

Are you in the process of becoming a product manager? Wondering about what is the ideal product manager career path? 

Check out a detailed article on the Product Manager Career Path.

Product Manager vs Project Manager

product manager vs project manager, product vs project manager
Product manager vs Project manager


One way to accelerate your career progress in either the project management or product management field is to work with an experienced mentor to learn the ropes. Ideally, your current or future employer will provide that kind of informal, but comprehensive training. 
 
If you’re weighing the pros and cons of being a product manager versus a project manager, your decision may rest on your strengths and weaknesses, your areas of interest and expertise, salaries being offered, and the desirability of working for specific companies.  

Although the necessary skill sets may vary in product manager and project manager jobs, many opportunities are available to applicants possessing leadership experience, organizational skills, and the ability to effectively communicate, motivate, and collaborate with other professionals. 
 
One of the best ways to stay on track in the project management field is to use templates that assist you with task management, budgeting, status reports, resource planning, risk assessment, Agile, and change management. 

Check out our full range of project management templates that can help you plan, manage, and successfully complete your next company project. From initiating, planning and executing a project to monitoring, controlling, and closing it, having access to the right tools, templates, and software can make all the difference in the project’s success.

Whether the focus of your career is product management or project management, our templates will enable you to stay on top of crucial details, while keeping an eye on the big picture!


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