After a recent interview while hunting for jobs, an interesting topic came up, which was the difference between project and product managers. We spent a bit of time going around on the topic and I wanted to write down my thoughts here as well.

The project manager understands everything in terms of process and boundary conditions – meaning the goals and resources of the project. They fit the work that needs to be done and into those conditions set out at the start of the project. The product manager on the other hand sets the boundaries and most importantly understands the customer needs. By understanding the customer needs, They are able to know what direction to take the project and decide given the potential value creation how much to invest in each feature.

The type of research that each individual role has to take on is also different. The product manager interacts with the users and uses different qualitative and quantitative testing methods to understand what features are required, how much value they would add to the users job, and creates the product market fit matrix through value proposition design. The project manager will research whether the tasks assigned align with the resources provided, and if this is not the case to explore ways of finding solutions that fit within the given resources. To some extent, the project manager will also look at extending the budget by navigating contracts, etc. but they will work with what is provided And will not move too much on the requirements. Those will be negotiated at the start of the project by the project manager.

Product managers and project managers can work efficiently together by understanding their individual roles. In my experience, sometimes the project and product manager are the same individual. However, this seems not to be the best way to work on larger projects that are complex in nature and require interacting with many different customers, are hard to execute, and keep track of changing teams, market landscape and customer needs. Smaller projects with a few clients and smaller teams it is possible.