Product Management

by John Williams, Founder and Lead Consultant at ProjExc PM Consultants.

Is product management a specialism within project management or is project management a component part of product management.  We have known countless debates and can see the arguments on both sides.  For example Andrew Dickenson recently posted on his blog emphasising the delivery role of the project manager and the marketing role of the product manager.
One thing that is for certain is that there are unquestionable strong links between both disciplines. However, whilst not all projects are creating new products, but products are created as part of a project.

Process

As a consultant I see very clearly that there are distinct but intertwined parallel processes for the disciplines.  The project management process focuses on the planning, execution (with control & reporting), and closure & review, punctuated with milestones.  This process ensures that the objectives of the project are met in the most efficient manner.  The product process works through innovation and start-up, concepts, developments, preparations and realisation, punctuated by tollgates, with stronger emphasis on delivering a product that the organisation is able to make at an appropriate quality, and sell it in such a way as to be beneficial to the organisation.
Product and Project Process
Of course once the new product is launched, in many organisations, the Product Manager will continue to retain ownership for the product for it’s market lifetime.

Products Differ – software/service vs hardware

An important factor to consider in respect to product management is how to handle the form of the product.  For software and service products there is lots of interest and there are lots of ideas and articles encouraging an agile approach to creation, rather than more traditional waterfall methods.  New product managers should be careful not to fall into the trap of applying such iterative methods to physical products, so as not to lose valuable time heading down a blind alley.

Further Reading

Some great articles and blogs on the former methods include:
Product Management 101 on Medium where Shawn Zvinis shares some of his learning from designing and building products at early stage technology startups.
The Lean, Agile Way to Build Your First Product on tuts+ where Andrew Blackman looks at
  • Using agile product development,
  • Producing a minimal viable product (MVP),
  • Embracing the lean startup principles, and
  • Keeping clarity through each iteration.
as part of his series on launching a start-up.
Also on the subject of product management, the following articles are of particular interest:
Rich Moronov looks at What We Need in a VP of Product Management arguing that a strong VPPM, will drive better processes, more cooperation and coherent products.
Vik Singh’s article Why Most Product Managers Suck (and how to be a better one) is interesting.  While it seems that Vik hasn’t fully rationalised the differences between product managers and project managers, this article gives some great advice in finding great product managers.

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