Why am I both?
This has been a constant mote of discussion— product or project manager? Who are you?
Well I am one who I can brand myself to be. But honestly, though I am yet to become a thought leader in this field, I can humbly provide my 2 cents on this subject.
Since I am product manager for a tech startup, it overlaps the nuances and responsibilities of a project manager as well. In digital products (or even physical products which need to be sold online eg. Apple products which need a digital presence to be sold/displayed online), the applications/features/software/services which need to be built go through a software development lifecycle (much like a manufacturing process in a factory). This can be agile, kanban, waterfall — you name it, we have it.
Thus a product manager/ product owner ‘owns’ these digital/technical products (which can be software products, online ecommerce sites or apps which help physical products be sold and marketed online, mobile apps etc.). He is responsible for driving the ideation and launch of innovative products and features, thereby creating new opportunities for the business while staying abreast with the current industry trends. He needs to be able to strategize and streamline the product operations in order to deliver a healthy product which is aligned with the initial expectations and goals of the organization.
Now project management is a subset of this above phenomenon. A project manager applies his project management skills to the “when” part of the equation. He needs to setup detailed milestones, timelines and processes keeping a holistic view of the budget and resources for ‘projects’. Note here, that a set of projects can make a ‘product’.
A Project Manager leads key deliverables, creates accurate technical project documentation, leads and plans the project from a functional and quality assurance perspective to achieve the project objectives.
Eg. As an Ecommerce Product Manager for a publishing/consumer products’ company, my overarching role was to manage the ecommerce and other online channels for the entire brand i.e. the online version of the company became my ‘product’. However, being a small team within a bigger corporate structure (and because product/project management is not really a thing in a publishing house), we used to regularly take on ‘projects’ not related to ecommerce from regional marketing teams (eg. if a Harry Potter 9 book was up for world wide release). In this sense, we were ‘project managers’ since these projects had a set deadline — though these projects in totality made up the ‘product’.
Thus a product manager of an electronics’ brand might need to think about the customer pain-point in the market, research about how a particular type of laptop needs to be designed, validate and decide the initial blueprint (logical ideation) of the system and let his project manager take care of the actual deliverables from a technical standpoint. This is akin to a project manager of a construction firm who oversees the progress of an architectural construction work and gets it delivered by a particular timeline.