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Product Manager vs. Project Manager by Bruce McCarthy

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Product Manager Versus Project Manager

Introduction

Product management has become the “it” job for professionals looking for a rewarding and high-profile career as well as for companies looking to maximize the return on their investments in product development. Despite all this attention, though, there is little common understanding of exactly what the product management role is and does.

The most common confusion about product management is how it is different from a similar-sounding and more familiar role: project management. These roles are very different, but they overlap in practice, and some companies might rely on one person to perform both.

This report is intended to help company executives and hiring managers make good hiring decisions and set up their teams for success by understanding the product management role and how it complements project management. The information here might also provide useful guidance if you’re considering a career in one or both of these roles.

Outcome Versus Output

Let’s begin with definitions.

Product management is a leadership role responsible for the successful conception, development, growth, and eventual retirement of a product. It is a strategic role, spanning the full life cycle and life span of a product, from cradle (conception, really) to grave. Success is defined not by ship dates, but by business outcomes like growth, revenue, and profit. Think of the product manager as the person who decides whether you raise sheep, cows, or ...

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