Product Management vs Project Management: Key Differences

Product Management
November 18, 2022
5 mins read
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A project is a planned activity done over a defined timeframe and intended to achieve a business goal.

A product is a tool that solves a specific problem for a business’s target audience.

Products emerge from the audience’s pain points and achieve important business goals.

But what are the processes behind executing an idea and building a tool? 

And how do they differ?

In this article, let’s look at the differences between project management and product management. 

Product management process

A product management process is how product teams create a product based on the market demand or improve an existing product’s desirability.

Let’s take a look at what the process looks like.

6 steps of the product management process

In a broader sense, product management has six steps that help the product management team build new products and improve the desirability of the existing ones.

We have shared what each step is and how they contribute toward the aforementioned goals.

1. Identifying customers’ needs and managing ideas

This step ensures the desirability of the product or its features.

You can do that by asking your target audience in-depth questions where you learn more about the problem and how it affects them. Then, you can turn to the market and see whether there is a solution for the said problem and analyze them.

The challenge that product management teams might face here is collecting all that information as it comes in various formats from various sources. This makes their analysis for drawing an actionable insight difficult and time-consuming.

To simplify it you can use a tool like Zeda.io that gets you the research data from all sources, in real time, to one place, and in the format you want.

Identifying customers’ needs and managing ideas

You will see that data similar to the following format:

2. Creating a problem-solving vision

In this step, you visualize the solution so that you can build it.

You can write a story that ends with your potential customer solving the problem you identified above. What steps will they take? What is the outcome? How does it make them feel? And, most importantly, how many resources are they spending?

This helps you tangibly define the ‘solved’ state which becomes your team’s target. Now, you can start building bridges towards that, as efficiently as you can, with the resources available to you.

You can build user flows in Zeda.io to visualize better.

 Creating a problem-solving vision

3. Building a strategic roadmap

The roadmap contains the action plan.

A theme-based roadmap is strategic where each step in the action plan is a user story. A user story contains the goal or impact of the product/feature. Under each of the user stories, you can then add features/sub-features which enclose the tactical actions within.

Once you identify the features, you can easily create a roadmap in Zeda.io.

Building a strategic roadmap

4. Prioritizing features

The features or sub-features under each user story need to be prioritized as they are not equivalent in value and complexity. That’s what this step is about.

There are various product prioritization frameworks that you can use based on parameters like the needs of the hour, an end goal, and available resources. The popular ones are MoSCoW, RICE scoring, and product tree.

You can directly use the RICE prioritization model on Zeda.io and configure other models to fit your requirements.

Prioritizing features

5. Delivery and analysis

After you build a roadmap, you start developing the features or the product.

In this stage, you deliver the solution to your target customers and observe how they interact with and react to it. Based on your organizational workflow (waterfall, agile, or hybrid), deliver the solution to the customers in the next release(s).

You can use product analytics tools such as Mixpanel and Pendo to track its usage.

6. Feedback and iteration

The previous step helps you indirectly gauge how your product or its features were received through usage data.

Here you can do it directly by asking your customers through forms and surveys through their channel of choice. By analyzing that you can find out if you have missed the mark and what you need to do next.

It might get confusing to decide on which feedback to work on first. A simple and quick solution is to vote on all of them:

Feedback and iteration

This step is the precursor to the first step of this cyclic process: Identifying customers’ needs and managing ideas.

To run the product management process efficiently, you need the right tools.

Product management tools

The product management tools can be put into the following categories:

  1. Feedback tools: These tools get you first-hand information from your target audience that you can rely on to understand their pain points and expectations.
  2. Analytics tools: You can collect user data that tells you about engagement and satisfaction levels.
  3. Roadmapping tools: A roadmap serves as a method of communication with the upper management of the organization and the stakeholders.
  4. Prioritization tools: You need these tools to prioritize the daily operations of the process and carry them out within a definite timeframe.

Integrating all the above tools is necessary as that’s how you gain actionable insights as a team. Switching between different apps is time-consuming and makes the overall workflow inefficient.

That’s where Zeda.io comes in.

Zeda.io is a super app for product teams that brings all your tools and the values they offer to one place through integrations. Now, you can execute all the steps of product management from a single platform.

Sign up and start your free trial today.

Now, let’s take a look at what the project management process is all about.

Project management process

The project management process is to achieve a goal within the given constraints.

It involves managing and organizing teams and equipping them with the required resources to reach the goal.

5 stages of the project management process

1. Initiation

Initiation gives meaning to the project by setting a meaningful goal and building a business case for it.

It involves the creation of the project charter that contains the need of the project, the constraints, and the people involved. The project charter, however, doesn’t contain any of the technical details of the project.

For example, if you are about to create an app that manages money, the project charter won’t contain details like the tech stack, features, etc. It will simply state that a money-management app will be created within a certain time and budget with the help of certain team members.

2. Planning

This stage puts a pin on all of the technical details of the project through the project roadmap.

A project roadmap is a tactical source of truth for stakeholders and executives written in simple terms. It contains the timeline, deliverables, resource allocation, milestones, and risks of the project with respect to its scope.

There are different criteria to determine the scope of the project. SMART and CLEAR are the two most used ones.

Project management process
Project management process

3. Execution

This is where the actual work takes place. The project manager ensures that the workflows are efficient, the stakeholders are updated, and the deadlines are met.

This is where proper collaboration is important for keeping everyone on the same page. Project managers need to provide feedback adequately while helping the team members remove roadblocks for the smooth progress of the project.

4. Monitoring

This phase runs in parallel with the execution phase.

To make this phase easier, you need to establish the critical success factors (CSFs). They are milestones and objectives that must be reached for the achievement of the goal as outlined in the initiation phase.

CSFs depend on the nature of the project. For instance, if you are making a mobile game, ‘longer session duration’ and ‘improved ratings’ could be two CSFs.

5. Closing

This phase indicates that either the goals are achieved or are labeled as unviable based on current constraints.

All the details of the project are reviewed to find areas of improvement for the project management process of the organization.

Project management tools

There are many project management tools in the market. Before choosing one of them, make sure that they have, at least, the following features:

  1. Collaboration and communication: Project management is a complex process involving many workflows, tools, datasets, and team members. To achieve and retain transparency, it is important that your project management tool facilitates open communication.
  2. Planning and scheduling: Deadlines get things done. Your project management tools should not only help you plan your project but also attach it to a timeline. This also helps in the estimation of resources required properly.
  3. Task management: Assigning tasks to the right people, tracking their progress, updating their statuses, etc., are crucial for a project’s success. Not to mention, it helps in tracking the overall progress of your project.
  4. Budget monitoring: The finances determine the feasibility of the project. It also helps make necessary adjustments along the way to minimize risks. Your project management tool should help you track the cost of your project and maintain transparency with the stakeholders.
  5. Reporting: Apart from keeping you updated with the progress of the project and its constituents, you should also be able to get the performance reports of your team members. This helps you ensure that no one is overworked.

Popular project management tools include Wrike, Zoho Projects, Zenkit, and ClickUp.

Product management vs project management

We have collated the differences between product vs project management in the table below.

Overlap between project management vs product management

In the discussion of project vs product management so far, we have understood that both processes are different in many ways. However, you must have also noticed that they have things in common.

For instance, both processes need collaboration and roadmapping tools (although there is a sizable difference between project management vs product management roadmaps).

Another overlap can be observed in the discussion of project manager vs product manager. In growing organizations with small teams, both roles are played by the same person signifying how interdependent they both are, particularly in product-based companies.

Teams that follow the agile philosophy see this as well. In the context of agile product management vs project management, team members are often found wearing different hats based on the present needs as ‘being agile’ means just that.

And, that helps us put a pin on this.

Summing up

Both product management and project management processes depend on a variety of factors like budget, market demands, business value, the company’s mission, etc. This makes them unique for each organization.

The product vs project management debate is helpful for you to gain a deeper understanding of your strategic and tactical efforts. The end goal is to run your organization more profitably while building products that your customers love.

And that’s what’s most important: as long as your customers are getting the promised value through your product and are satisfied, everything will fall into place.

To do that, you need the right tool.

Zeda.io is a super app for product teams that brings feedback, analytics, roadmapping, and prioritization tools to one place through integrations.

It takes just a few minutes to set up and hit the ground running.

Start your free trial today.

FAQs

  1. Which is better project management or product management?

To choose the right career, you have to consider things like project management vs product management salary, skillsets, and scope of growth. Of course, it depends on various other factors like your interests and industry demand.

  1. Who gets paid more product manager or project manager?

The product management vs project management salary is a complex discussion as it depends on the company. In general, product managers make more if the company is more product-focused.

  1. Can a project manager work as a product manager?

Yes, and vice versa. Both roles depend on the requirements and available resources of the moment.

  1. What is product management vs project management?

Product management is responsible for the creation of desirable products or features whereas project management handles the business goals of the organization under various constraints.

Jacob Koshy
Product Marketer at Zeda.io
A marketer in love with SaaS products. When away from work, I'm either spending time with my cats or adding miles on my motorcycle.
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