Difference between a Project Manager and a Product Manager

Binoy Chemmagate
3 min readOct 31, 2017

Often we hear the word “product manager”, have you been wondering what are the responsibilities of a product manager or what type of skillset a product manager should acquire over time?

A product manager (PDM) should not be confused with a project manager (PM). A project manager leads a team or a team is reporting to the project manager. Whereas a PDM does not lead any team nor is a boss of anyone. A PDM works across teams, listens to all the teams and takes the product forward.

That brings to the basic question of what is a product? A product can be anything that achieves a certain function (e.g. Facebook messenger for Android is a product). A PDM can be responsible for the entire product or a feature within that product (e.g. video chat within the Facebook messenger).

Now, where can you find a product manager within an organization? The tiny blue triangle in the diagram below shows the position of a product manager.

Checkout the blue triangle

As you can see, a PDM works very closely with the engineering, design and business teams. The role of a PDM should be more like an enabler rather than a commander. Some of the tasks of a PDM is listed below.

PDM Tasks

  • Sync with the stakeholders: PDMs are expected to be in sync with the stakeholders as the vision of the stakeholders and the PDM should be aligned from time to time.
  • Gather feedback: PDMs are expected to gather feedback from the design, engineering and business teams.
  • Talk to the end-users: PDMs keep a live communication channel with the end-users as a PDM is expected to be aware of the user behaviours, how the end-users perceive certain features, and document those feedbacks as actionable items.
  • Collect metrics: A PDM is always up-to-date about the metrics such as the success of a feature, frequency and the trend graphs of a product. A PDM is able to predict the revamp or discontinuation of certain features based on the derived facts.
  • Build features: Finally, a PDM gets to do the core task which is building features, this task is an end result of all the responsibilities mentioned above.

Types of PDM

  • Internal PDM: An internal PDM would work closely with the sales (S), marketing (M) and accounts (A) team. The main job of an internal PDM is to build tools for the SMA team to analyse the metrics and predict the growth patterns. This is an intro role and has very small audience. The monetary risk factor of this role is low.
  • Business to Business (B2B) PDM: As the name suggests, this PDM role works very close with the sales team and prioritizes the features based on the monetary benefits. The PDM develops features based on requests from the customers and also follows the vision of the product. In this case, the time is proportional to money so the deadlines are very strict. The monetary risk factor of this role is medium. E.g. PDM@Salesforce
  • Business to Customer (B2C) PDM: This role requires a lot of creativity and an overall vision of the product as every move can either take you to a new height or lead you to a catastrophe. Usually, there are millions of users for this product. Multiple platform support and thorough user testing might be needed before releasing any feature. There is a considerable pressure to improve but the rewards are high and the feedback loop it short. The monetary risk factor of this role is high. E.g PDM@Spotify

Let me know your feedback :)

Originally published at chemmagate.eu on October 31, 2017.

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Binoy Chemmagate

Been working in the ICT industry for more than a decade. Passionate about networking, WebRTC, and product management. Former product guy @ callstats.io, Zalando