project management and product management

In today’s ever-changing dynamic business environment, it is imperative that you define and manage your strategies to drive your business goals. Organizations execute projects that drive their internal goals and at the same time satisfies their clients expectations or needs. Organizations can also develop products that solves a customer’s problem. Project and Product management and project management are two distinct roles in any organization and are at times confused at all levels.

In this article you will understand,

  • Definition of product and project
  • Product and Project management
  • Roles of product and project manager


project product life cyle

A product is a something that can solve a customer need or a problem. All the product goes through a lifecycle such as introducing the or launching it in the market, the growth phase, maturity stage and decline. Example for products include Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc.


Project unlike product is a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a product or service. Project has a clear definition of the scope and the timeline by which the service or product needs to meet. Projects like products follow a lifecycle like analysis, design, development, testing, implementation and maintenance. These lifecycles can be present in any of product lifecycle meaning project lifecycle can be present inside each of the product life cycles and in fact multiple project lifecycles can occur inside product life cycles.

Product and Project Management

Product and Project have subtle differences as mostly the internal workings are same but yet they are distinct. Let’s understand the difference between a product and a project in detail to get some clarity.

Projects are typically managed through the triple constraints like Scope, Cost and Timeline in traditional waterfall methodology where all these constraints are fixed. In agile methodology, the Cost and Timeline constraints are fixed and Scope is kept as a variable to welcome changes by the customer at any point in the development phase.

The reason is while dealing with product, the end goal or vision is difficult to visualize as the product will stay and evolve in the market.

Though Product has a vision defined by the business but the details often evolve changing the goal altogether. For example, Burbn was an app developed by Systrom to have users to check-in at particular locations and earn points but later found to be that users were sharing pictures with their friends largely. The app was later renamed as Instagram.

Role of Product and Project Managers

Product management is an internal function of an organization dealing with developing, marketing, forecasting and promoting the products that it develops. Project management on the other hand is the defined sets of processes through which it deliver/develop products or service.

Product Managers sometimes called as Product Owners own the responsibility of success of the product through outs its lifecycle. Product owner always aims at providing directions on what is needed from the product rather than how it should be developed. The product managers should be a domain expert to understand the long-term view based on how the product will be used in the market and also define its trajectory.

The product managers responsibility will include but not limited to,

  • Maximizing the ROI of the product
  • Charting product vision and roadmap
  • Provide directions on “what” part of the product
  • Define priorities of features to be developed in each release
  • Working with sales and marketing team to define success strategies of the product.

Overall, the product manager is the single responsible for either success or failure of the project.

Project manager is responsible for the successful delivery of a project or service by meeting the defined timelines and budget. Project managers oversees the development of products to ensure it meets the requirements by managing the risks and issues. Project managers define the “How” part of the product development lifecycle.

Project managers primary responsibility would be managing the project by managing the constraints defined above and deliver with the quality standards defined by the client or product manager. Project managers move from one project to another project as soon as the project ends but product manager continues a little longer than a project manager as the product life cycle extends beyond the project life cycle. i.e. the product manager moves on to different product during the decline phase of existing product or once its goal is met.

Responsibilities of project managers include but not limited to,

  • Build a product
  • Manage a team to develop the product within the timeline and budget
  • Manage the constraints (scope, time and cost)
  • Meet the quality standards
  • Manage risk and issues while developing the product


Product and project management concepts are interleaved as you have read above but they are distinct always. Project managers focus internally and have specific and defined goals while working on a project while product managers focus externally have broader sets of goals as the product will evolve.

Although you can have a single person take on product and project management roles, it is always best to have these two roles separate to avoid conflict of interest.

How does your organization view the product and project management roles? Have you faced any difficulties in differentiating these two roles in the past?

Author’s Bio

Ramkumar Arumugam is an experienced Program Manager with 15+ years of success in leading all phases of diverse technology IT Projects in retail, e-commerce, insurance and pharma market research industries. He is currently working as Senior Program Manager in Cognizant and holds multiple certifications including PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, CSP and ICP-ACC.He is a regular contributor to

See Also

Product Life Cycle and Project Life Cycle

Further Reading

pmi document


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