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Product Manager vs Project Manager: How to Avoid Confusion?

Hygger corporate blog Development Management *Project management *Product Management *
Large companies and big teams always consist of various strategic departments and roles. Therefore, it's not a rare case when people face confusion in understanding some job positions.

Is it always clear to understand what the key responsibilities of different managers within one team are? For example, the roles of a product manager and a project manager have much in common. Supposedly, one of these PM’s have heard at least once in life the cheesy question «Is there any difference at all?" However, do not hurry to blame and shame the people who confuse their functionality. Product Manager and Project Manager are completely different roles. The goal of this post is to define clear differences between two strategic positions in software development companies to keep you out of all doubt.


Imagine that your organization needs tough personnel optimization and some staff cuts. If you had to choose whom to keep in the team, and whom to say goodbye. What manager would you keep stay?

Obviously, this choice is not simple. If you were asked to name the role, which is more important for your team, you would surely find it difficult to answer.

Is there any answer to this question? Let's try to figure it out.

Product Manager vs Project Manager: who carries more weight?

  • Product is the ultimate result that you propose to your customers or users. This product can be physically touchable; it can be a software platform or service.
  • Project is a plan that involves various consequent activities. These activities have fixed start and end dates and a defined outcome. The project is completed only when the outcome is accomplished.

For example, your product is a dating app. Developing the application intends different projects. One of them is compiling a content plan and running a corporate blog. This project has own deadlines and ending points.

The most trivial (but not correct!) way to compare both roles is to look at the average salary of both. The following pics show these statistics:



What are the key responsibilities of Product Manager and Project Manager?

Product managers

Product managers in the IT-sphere are in charge of managing software products' development. They are usually responsible for defining the product strategy, feature prioritization and the final release of the product.

They are responsible for creating ideas and initiatives to help reach the strategy and goals, facilitating communication among relevant internal and external parties. They meet with potential and current customers and get their feedback that may be useful for future versions. They also work with marketers to present product features to consumers effectively. They work with strategic roadmaps and manage a product backlog.

Product managers often attend industry events and meetings to stay on top of current trends. So, the list of their core responsibilities includes:

  • Product strategy
  • Market research
  • Ideas and initiatives
  • Feature prioritization
  • Releases
  • Profit and loss issues

Project managers

Project managers' responsibilities in software development are connected with planning certain types of projects within a company. These specialists ensure that they are executed and on-track through all stages of the process, they care about potential constraints and resources risks.

Usually, they are less focused on specific product goals. They take all initiatives and features to develop a timeline.

Project management as a job may require daily evaluations of employees, their motivation in order to achieve particular goals.

Project managers control projects until they are finished and evaluate them to understand whether follow-up projects are necessary.

Their main responsibilities are connected with:

  • Project delivery
  • Resources
  • Utilizing software life-cycle methodology
  • Status updates
  • Project budget
  • Capacity
  • Team collaboration
  • Problem resolution

What are potential career paths for both roles?

These managers quite naturally seek career advancement. The movement from one job to the next level requires strong manager's skills and enough experience.

Typically, product managers strive to become Senior Product Managers or Product Management Directors. The project managers' career path usually escalates to Senior Project Managers and PM Directors roles.

What role is more important in companies?

If your company involve both the product manager and project manager, then it's everything alright with its organizational structure. How to identify, who is more important?

Perhaps, the following questions will assist you:

  • Can the team perform effectively without the product manager?
  • What will happen if the project manager leaves the team?

Most likely, your answers will show that both roles are important and irreplaceable. Their tight collaboration is the key to success.

Product management and project management tools

Choosing a professional tool for project management and product management it worth to consider specific company's needs, the number of team members involved, the industry, and many more factors.

Nowadays you may try smart online management solutions that can cover the most essential needs of both managers.

Such modern software solutions as Trello, Wrike, Hygger or Aha offer a set of powerful features for both product management and project management areas.

Most of these tools provide their users with convenient tas boards (suitable for kanban and Scrum), tracking system, to-do lists, establishing priorities, high-level estimation, useful timelines, and so on and so forth.

As a final word

Let's briefly summarize everything that was mentioned above:

  • Product manager and project manager' roles can be confused but they are completely different. They are both important for any software development company.
  • Product managers drive product development, work with initiatives, prioritize and make strategic decisions. Project managers control the execution of project plans that have already been developed and approved.
  • Both managers need professional management software to visualize and track all products and project activities and work in collaboration with their teams.

How do you determine the difference between project and product managers? What software have you tried and why?
Tags: product managementproduct managerproject managementproject manager
Hubs: Hygger corporate blog Development Management Project management Product Management
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