Product or Project Manager. Decide who you are

Over past years I have been asked on several occasions to explain why would someone called himself a Product but not Project Manager.

In Software Industry is question causes a great deal of confusion:

  1. What is the difference between two?
  2. When you are writing a software program is it a product or project?
  3. When Project became Product?
  4. Am I a Product Manager or Project Manager or simply a programmer?

Lets start from the beginning – Product versus Project. When a CEO of your company comes to you with his vision, it is usually translates into number of Projects which will cover several requirements presented. Project will represent “what we need to do” to achieve some goal for the company. It by itself might affect one or many programs. Programs itself might be part of several Products.
Simple analogy Project is a feature(s) you’d like to have, where Product is a reflection/implementation of such projects over the time of development.

Lets look at questions above from this definition and try to provide some answers.

  1. I hope we just answered that.
  2. As soon as you start to design phase and then write code you are working on the project. When you release your code to be used, it will eventually became a product (or part of it).
  3. Therefore, as soon as project rquirements and goals are reached and it gets its own life it become a Product. Bear in mind that Project might affect more then one Product.

Question 4 is only to be answered when there is a clear understanding of a terminology used.

Project manager is responsible for the proper delivery of the project – an one-chapter story with well defined goals, scope, associated time-frame, budget and other constrains. There are many things to be covered: resources to be allocated, risks identified and addressed, incomplete requirements clarified and resolved, budget and time line to be set and kept intact. Result of all this effort is to ensure that requirement are implemented and delivered. Once it is delivered and signed off, he will move on with next project. If someone become a guru in this area, then it is a time for PMI title.

Product manager is something different from above. Once the project became product it is a responsibility of the Product manager to remain with it and manage further life of the product. He/she will be focusing on the goal of enhancing a product, bringing it forward in such way that it continues to meet general business requirements and objectives over time. As a result a new projects would be defined and product manager might meet with project managers again, working with them to ensure stability of the product, its health, feature requirements, helping and guiding the team allocated for the new project to accomplish a new goals.

As you can see similarity between two converges into differences in approach. Even though both are applied to the same product, goals associated are different – strict and narrow scope for the features delivered from project manager point and full feature set to meet customers requirements from product manager’s perspective.

Who is higher in chain of command? I think it all boils down to the business model.

If you are a consulting firm, then project is what you do by providing your services.
But if you write and maintain the software then product managers became the ultimate rulers.

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  • About

    From being a junior developer all the way to Development Manager position, I was always interested in new technologies. Passionate speaker, IT junky, developer, architect, team lead, and development manager - many hats, one goal - making software better and closer to people’s needs. For the most part I am using my blog as a scratch pad, writing small articles on things which I came across, was asked about more then once, and which would otherwise require additional research again and again.

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