Meeting new people as a twentysomething inevitably leads to the “so what do you do?” question. It’s the modern equivalent of “A/S/L?” As soon as I say, “I’m a Product Manager for a gaming company,” I start hearing questions back like “oh cool, so what’s it like being a Project Manager?”
Well, it’s very different from being a Product Manager.
Even though the words are only different by two letters, the role of a Product Manager and Project Manager are quite distinct from one another. Product Managers are responsible for the what and the why, Project Manager are in charge of the how and the when.
Product Managers decide what features will be built and why those features are the right ones to build. How should the product be augmented to satisfy both business requirements and customer needs? Do analytics suggest the product is lacking in a certain area? Has user testing identified a possible pivot? These are questions Product Managers think about on an almost daily basis.
Project Managers, on the other hand, decide how that feature will be developed and when it will be delivered. What resources are required to engineer this feature? What is the estimate for development to be completed and how is the team tracking to that goal? Are there any roadblocks that need to be addressed to keep progressing?
Having both a talented Product Manager and a killer Project Manager on a team ensures the right things are being built, and those things are being built as efficiently as possible. It’s no use to have the right idea but ineffective development, and it’s pointless to build the wrong thing effectively. Both sides must be firing for the product to be a well-oiled machine.