Project Management

Project management fits inside product management process

Tom Mochal describes the difference between project management and product management.

"Projects" are the way that new work gets delivered. "Project management" refers to the processes used to create or enhance the product.

"Products," on the other hand, are tangible items that are produced by a project. (If you purchased a vendor product, then the vendor produced the product using a project.) If the product is temporary or has a short lifespan, we don't normally consider it a product. Usually products are a term given to something that we build and maintain for a long period of time.

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Product management is an approach for centrally coordinating the activities surrounding the inception, business case, development and the long-term support and enhancement of a product. You can think of product management as encompassing the full lifecycle of the product. The person that executes these responsibilities is called a Product Manager.

The role of the Product Manager varies depending on where the product is in the product lifecycle. The following areas describe some of the specific responsibilities of the product manager for internal and vendor developed products.


  • Capture the idea so that it can be explored more fully.
  • Identify opportunities for use of the product

Business case

Nurture an idea through the company's business planning process to see if it can be funded. If the idea is never fulfilled, then the product management lifecycle is very short.


A project is started to build the product. At this point, project management and product management overlap. The product manager may be assigned the role of the project manager as well, but it is more common that a project management specialist is introduced to manage the project to completion.

  • Coordinate testing of new products and releases, including coordinating pilots with potential product users
  • Determine when a product is "production-ready" based on testing and pilot projects
  • Coordinate the deployment of the product or new releases

Maintenance and support

This is where the long-term product management occurs. It may have taken a few months to get the work funded, and it may take some months for the product to be built. However, the product may be supported and enhanced for many years afterward. The product manager may do the support and enhancements, but it is likely that a dedicated support organization is involved.

  • Act as the primary contact for coordination and communication with the product vendor (vendor products)
  • Monitor product direction with the vendor (vendor products)
  • Track where the product has been deployed
  • Receive ongoing requests from the staff for individual products
  • Integrate and adds new products and releases (vendor products)

Financial management

  • Coordinate negotiation of product contracts, purchase agreements, and maintenance agreements (vendor products)
  • Ensure that budget is available for product purchases and maintenance
  • Determine when to consider canceling or reducing maintenance payments based on product direction (vendor products)

Product release management

  • Coordinate certification of new releases (vendor and internal products)
  • Plan and manage new release implementation (vendor and internal products)

Product retirement

  • Determine when product need to be retired
  • Plan and manage product retirement
  • Retire (uninstall) the product from the environment
Matthew Yurksaitis
Matthew Yurksaitis

In reading this article and the subsequest posts to it, I find that the article itself seems to have the relationship a bit reversed and even perhaps mis-aligned. In my limited experience in Program, Product and Project management often Project & Product Managers are more of a peer relationship as a Product Manager may be responsible for a specific product or product line and a project manager responsible for delivery of a specific product model or enhancement etc.. but niether really had the role & relationship described in the article. A Program Manager typically had the relationship described in the article to both the Product and Project Manager. I believe that the major responsibility areas listed in the article of what would be a Program Manager fall short of reality. I. Product Manager The title of Product Manager refers to a collective term often used to describe a combination of roles that form the Product Management Team Model. The product management team is a task group, comprised of four distinct roles that organizationally resides in the Product Management department. The four roles in the product management team model are the product planner, product marketer, sales engineer, and marketing communications (MarCom) manager. These four roles are the basic providers of the planning, deliverables, and actions that guide the inbound oriented product definition and the outbound marketing efforts. The most common combination of roles to which the Product Manager title is attributed, are the product planner and product marketer. Diverse interpretations regarding the role of the product manager are the norm. The product manager title is often used in many ways to describe drastically different duties and responsibilities. Even within the high-tech industry where product management is better defined, the product manager's job description varies widely among companies. This is due to tradition and intuitive interpretations by different individuals. In some companies, the product manager also acts as: Product Marketing Manager - may perform all outbound marketing activities Project Manager - may perform all activities related to schedule and resource management Program Manager - may perform activities related to schedule, resource, and cross-functional execution II. Product Management Product management is an organizational function within a company dealing with the product planning or product marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle. Product Management is also a collective term used to describe the broad sum of diverse activities performed in the interest of delivering a particular product to market. From a practical perspective, product management is an occupational domain which hold two professional disciplines: product planning and product marketing. This is because the product's functionality is created for the user via product planning efforts, and product value is presented to the buyer via product marketing activities. Product planning and product marketing are very different but due to the collaborative nature of these two disciplines, some companies erroneously perceive them as being one discipline, which they call product management. Done carefully, it is very possible to functionally divide the product management domain into product planning and product marketing, yet retain the required synergy between the two disciplines. Product planning typically deals with these activities: Defining new products and gathering market requirements Product Life Cycle considerations Product portfolio management Product differentiation Product marketing typically deals with these activities: Product positioning and outbound messaging Promoting the product externally with press, customers, and partners Bringing new products to market Product management typically deals with these closely-related functions: Product planning Product marketing Program management Project management III. Project Management Project Management is the discipline of organizing and managing resources in such a way that these resources deliver all the work required to complete a project within defined scope, quality, time and cost constraints. A project is a temporary and one-time endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service, that brings about beneficial change or added value. This property of being a temporary and a one-time undertaking contrasts with processes, or operations, which are permanent or semi-permanent ongoing functional work to create the same product or service over and over again. The management of these two systems is often very different and requires varying technical skills and philosophy, hence requiring the development of project management. The first challenge of project management is to ensure that a project is delivered within defined constraints. The second, more ambitious challenge is the optimized allocation and integration of inputs needed to meet pre-defined objectives. A project is a carefully defined set of activities that use resources (money, people, materials, energy, space, provisions, communication, quality, risk, etc.) to meet the pre-defined objectives. IV. Program Management Program management is the process of managing multiple ongoing inter-dependent projects. An example would be that of designing, manufacturing and providing support infrastructure for an automobile manufacturer. This requires hundreds, or even thousands, of separate projects. In an organization or enterprise, Program Management also reflects the emphasis on coordinating and prioritizing resources across projects, departments, and entities to ensure that resource contention is managed from a global focus. The UK government has invested heavily in program management. In Europe, the term normally refers to multiple change projects: projects that are designed to deliver benefits to the host organization. Program management provides a layer above project management focusing on selecting the best group of programs, defining them in terms of their constituent projects and providing an infrastructure where projects can be run successfully but leaving project management to the project management community. Program management responsibilities can vary. For instance, manufacturing program management responsibilities will be much different than program management responsibilities for a pharmaceutical trial and data collection program. Key factors in Program Management Governance: Programs need a more robust structure and control because of the larger impact their failure can have Management: At the lowest level project managers co-ordinate individual projects. They are overseen by the Program Manager who accounts to the Program Sponsor (or board). Finances: Tracking of finances is an important part of Program Management and basic costs together with wider costs of administering the program are all tracked. Infrastructure: Allocation of resources influences the cost and success of the program. The Program Management office monitors overall and project specific resource usage. Planning: Each project manager creates a plan which fits in with the wider plan of the Program itself.../ In short the Product and Proejct Manager roles overlap and are often more at a peer level and the role outlined in the article is more along the path of a Program Manager.


To the extreme, Project/Development-stage is time-controlled, while Operations is resource-controlled. Of course, both are overlaps, and "fluids"- in nature or alive i.e. they cross the boundary so called "budgets", in and out from boundary to the other. Name-wise, it can carry a 'product name ex. SAP' or 'process name- ex. IT system development project', both are the same stuffs. Product Lifecycle has 4 stages: intro, development, maturity and decline. X-axis is timeline, Y--axis say, as $ turn-over. You can preceive the first two as projects, the last two as operations. Both focus on managing one product. We try to see a product as a living thing, what a creative idea!!! Hope it is useful.


The author misses the fundamental responsibility of the Product Manager in initiating a Program which will ultimately consist of multiple projects, most often in multiple disciplines. This is consistent with the often held misconceptions that the Product Manager will crank out a "product", having cranked out the templates for a "business plan" which have the necessary the necessary Excel driven financial that will prove that any idea is a great idea (although some may be greater than others). The article suceeds in missing the basic initial responsibilities of both the Product Manager and, a necessarily different, Project Manager. Missing this part of the initiation process is an open invitation to allowing products or solutions to proceed without understanding why the marketplace and the company need the Product or Solution in the first place. There are very necessary, multiple interrelationships between Product and Project Management throughout bringing a Product/ Solution to a commercially successful life cycle. They start well before the decision has been taken to build the "product" (as the author contends). These relationships continue throughout the lifecycle. In performing the multiple tasks of Project Management throughout the lifecycle of the Product or Solution the "Product Manager" is managing, the Project Manager contributes in major ways to improved development cycle times, the commerciality of the resulting product(s)/ solution(s) and, lest we forget, the improved quality of the endeavor.


The article is quite logical and straight forward in distinguishing both roles. From my experience, in software industry mostly product management and project management are mismanaged as mostly the guy is the same!


I would be interested to understand what you understand as a 1. Program and 2. what role the product manager has during the lifecycle of the Program. I agree entirely with your viewpoint that the one-dimensional view presented in the article, "define and hand over to PM" might be a reflection of reality but should not be considered as best practice. I would however also disagree that the PM is contributing and the Product Manager is managing. This might ease the problem but it still does not present a partnership which I think is key.


I read these articles and find them lacking in substance. I look foreward to the comments like the one I am replying to in order to gain something.


As a software product manager, I am definitely also the project manager on many ongoing projects. It would be nice if I could determine the priority projects, write the business case and hand them off to an official project manager. As a project & product manager though, are you not bias to your project(s) over the overall health of the product?

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