Difference between Product Manager and Project Manager

What is the difference between the product manager and project manager ?


Product managers and project managers often work together, they have distinct roles. While a product manager sets the vision, goals, and business trajectory of a product, a project manager leads the many projects to make those goals a reality. So if the product manager is a strategic thinker, the project manager is more of a doer. It might help if we distinguish products from projects. A product refers to any service or item that an organization creates to serve a customer need. Products can be physical, like furniture or clothing, or digital, like an app, or a video feature on a website. A project, on the other hand, is a set of tasks completed to achieve an outcome. A project’s goal could be to create or maintain a product—like construct a house, or roll out a new software update.


Product managers and project managers often work together. What would this actually look like? Let’s look at an example. Imagine a company that sells furniture online. They want to launch an app that customers can use to browse products on mobile devices. The company might hire a product manager to be in charge of the app’s development. The product manager will define the goals of the app, decide what features should be in it, orchestrate a team of product developers, and monitor new challenges as they arise. The company might then hire a project manager to turn these goals into reality. Let’s say the product manager determines that people like to discuss with family members before making a purchase, and wants to make this a key part of the app. A project manager might lead a project to roll out a feature on the app that will allow customers to share furniture they like through a messaging platform. The project manager may put together a team dedicated to the new feature, set a schedule for production, and make sure the team completes the project on time and within budget. In the meantime, they might be communicating with the product manager a few times a week with updates on progress.


The road to becoming a product or project manager have many similarities—project managers can, in fact, go on to become product managers. While some people might become product managers straight out of college, it’s common to build up experience and skills beforehand. Since product managers need a good sense of business and customer needs, you might see product managers with backgrounds in business operations or marketing. Product managers might go on to become senior product managers or vice presidents of product. Project managers on the other hand often get their start in industry work. For example, a software development project manager might spend a few years working as a software developer. They might also work first as an associate project manager or project coordinator. Project managers can go on to be product managers, senior project managers, and directors of project management. But keep in mind that these two fields are very flexible and new. There’s no one way to become a project manager or product manager.


For both product managers and project managers, human skills, also known as soft skills, are crucially important. You’ll also need some specialized technical knowledge.

Product manager skills:
Data analysis,
Market assessment,
Price modeling,
Basic user experience (UX) knowledge,
Basic business knowledge.

Project manager skills:
Knowledge of project management approaches like Scrum, Agile, and Waterfall.
Risk management,
Project management tools like Asana or Gantt charts,
Basic budgeting.

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A product manager can make a very effective project manager. Many of the skills required to be a good product manager are similar to those needed to be a good project manager. Some smaller companies may require product managers to do some project management as well.