There are many books you can find that discuss project management, particularly in relation to using the waterfall method with its clearly defined sequential stages from start to finish. However, the landscape is changing for projects overall in many industries to be more agile, iterative, customer focused, and change oriented. Added to that, as a project manager there is increasing overlap with what would typically be seen as process management. Process management, in turn, with its emphasis on optimizing necessary processes (while removing those that are not) and reducing variation, for which Six Sigma methodologies have been prominent, is increasingly overlapping with the progressively nuanced definitions of project management. On top of many of these project and process relations, we often need to overlay product management, inclusive of product planning, development, and launch as well. This book, however, will focus primarily on project and project management. We will address what they are, how they are unique, and how they overlap. That overlap is depicted in the Venn diagram image.
A brief description of each follows:
Each of these are applicable to almost every industry and career in some fashion. Equally, each also involve some level of scope management. Scope management is defining defined features and functions of a product, or the scope of work needed to finish a project.
In many cases, efforts to improve processes and products are done as projects. There may be a series of projects that occur in an organization in efforts to refine processes or products.
As managers, there is an increasing expectation that we navigate areas of overlap. Based on the industry, it may be with a bend toward traditional projectment, such as in new hardware installations or the installation of networks, or it may be with an angle toward iterations or a phase-based approach, such as in much of software or application development. Even the management of simple implementation projects often necessitate either or both a) viewing the project as a series of processes, or b) seeing process improvements as a series of projects.
A product is something that is made to be sold or used. As Manickavinayaham summarizes, "A product is what you provide a group of users, whereas a project is a plan having a series of activities, a defined outcome, and fixed start and end dates." (2017) While a project may very well have to do with the design, development, or distribution of a product, product management also stands out on its own. Product management deals with new business justification of new products, product design and development, planning, forecasting, pricing, testing, launch, and marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product life cycle. There are nuanced interpretations of a product life cycle, but generally it involves product development, market introduction, growth, maturity, and then ultimately saturation and decline over time.
While there are also nuanced interpretations of the purpose of product management and product managers, they commonly include:
Yang (2015) summarizes the differences between project managers and product managers nicely below:
Product managers own:
Project managers own:
A job title of product manager can also vary greatly, particularly across industries. Generally, though, a project manager acts as the lead over a product inclusive of all necessary management (the role is a cross between leadership and management). They differentiae a product for market and ensure that the product supports the company's overall strategy and goals.
Manickavinayaham, H. (2017). Project Management vs. Product Management. Educause Review. Retrieved January 17, 2021 from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/4/project-management-vs-product-management
Yang, R. (2015). the Product Manager vs. Project Manager. Aha! Blog. Retrieved January 17, 2021 from https://www.aha.io/blog/the-product-manager-vs-project-manager