The Product Manager vs Project Manager

What’s the Difference between Product Manager vs Project Manager?

A Product Manager decides what the product should do. A Project Manager manages the process of building the product. If a Product Manager were a movie director, the Project Manager would be the movie producer. The movie director comes up with a vision of the movie and works with a team to make sure the movie is loved by audiences.  The movie producer raises funding / resources and works with team to make sure production is finished on time and on budget.

Product Manager vs Project Manager is similar to Movie Director vs Movie Producer.jpg

Product Manager vs Project Manager is similar to Movie Director vs Movie Producer

Product Manager vs Project Manager tasks: 

Product Manager

  • Curate feature ideas
  • Talk to users
  • Write requirements
  • prioritize features

Project Manager

  • Manage budget
  • Allocate resources
  • Improve development process
  • Manage schedule

As a Product Manager for Ticketmaster, my days were filled with tasks like hosting brainstorm sessions, talking to users, writing users stories, and managing the feature backlog.

I worked closely with a Project Manager who helped me with creating a timeline of when my features were going to get built, who on the engineering / design team would be working on them, and organized regular meetings to keep us on schedule.

The skills needed to succeed at each job is also different.

For a Product Manager, the top 3 skills needed are vision, execution, and leadership (learn more about these 3 skills in my free online training here)

For a Project Manager, the top 3 skills needed are plan-making, negotiation, and leadership.

Product Manager VS Project Manager or Product Manager AND Project Manager – Is it possible to be both?

Yes. It depends on the size of the company.

In a large company, these two roles are two different jobs. In a smaller company, these two roles is one job. Since the Product Manager has best visibility into what the team is building, he/she is also the best person to drive the schedule.

Product Manager vs Program Manager?

In Microsoft, the Product Manager is the same as the Program Manager. Microsoft has used “Program Manager” as a job title before the job title “Product Manager” got popular so they just kept it.

Outside of Microsoft, the Program Manager is the same as the Project Manager.

Product Manager vs Product Owner

A Product Manager is the same as a Product Owner. The Product Owner is the term used in a software development process called Scrum. In Scrum the Project Manager is called a Scrum master.

Salary differences: Product Manager vs Project Manager

The average salary for a Product Manger is around $120,000 USD per year (Get a more detailed breakdown here)

The averge salary for a Project Manager is $92,000 USD per year.

Want a deeper dive into what a Product Manager does? Check out my essay on “What is Product Management” here.

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