The titles of product manager and project manager can be confusing because they appear to be interchangeable. This is incorrect, but what is the significance? Smooth teamwork depends on knowing the difference.

At first glance, the titles look similar, even though they have specific job descriptions. Both product and project managers work closely together and have overlapping responsibilities.

Furthermore, the roles will vary according to the nature of the products and projects. Additionally there are technical product managers and product managers and business project managers as well as IT project managers. Project managers for a software product is a good example of how specific the roles can be.

The Q & A approach is useful for pinpointing the differences between a project and a product manager.

Learn below more about this topic in this article created by our team at TMS.

Project management vs product management: Q & A

Q1: Product vs project – What’s the difference?

Product vs project

  • A product can be a physical object or a service. Software, apps, training, and courses are all products. The entire lifecycle, from development to redundancy, is supervised by a product manager.
  • A project is a fixed plan for method and timing . A project contains milestones, steps to be taken from start to completion, for which the project manager is responsible.

Q2: How does that translate into the production process?

Product management continues after the customer has purchased the product, and forr as long as it’s on the market. It includes:

  • following upon client or customer satisfaction
  • making improvements or upgrades/updates

The follow-up stage can be categorized as a new project, but the product itself undergoes continuous evolution until it becomes obsolete. The project manager supports this by setting-up successive projects.

Q3: Product vs project manager –  What’s the basic difference?

Product vs project manager

  • A product manager makes sure a product will meet the quality goals,by careful preparation and understanding the product’s purpose.
  • A project manager takes the vision created by the product manager and makes sure that it is executed on time and according to budget

It’s obvious that the two will need to work together as a team; they have complementary roles.

Product management vs project management: Spreadsheet

In a product manager vs project manager spreadsheet, it looks like this:

Project manager Product manager Both
Team leader of the project Team leader of the product developers They share the same end goal
Initiates the project Prepares the vision, provides the product roadmap (strategy), and describes the product life cycle They work together to reach that goal, each with their skillset
Sets milestones Motivates everyone involved to support the vision  


Executes the project Supervises the implementation of the entire life cycle
Monitors the project Makes sure the product is of a high standard
Closes the project on time without exceeding the budget Communicates with customers, to find out if they are satisfied with the product That end goal is delivering a perfect product for happy customers


Looking at both roles like this, the differences become clearer.

Even more so when highlighting the keywords that are contained within their similar job descriptions

The responsibilities of a product manager vs project manager

responsibilities of a product manager vs project manager

  1. A product manager leads a team focused on delivering a good end product

A project manager leads a team focused on delivering a  successful project 

  1. A product manager defines the strategy and the process flow of the product

A project manager defines the strategy and the process flow of the project

  1. A product manager oversees a product life cycle

A project manager oversees a project life cycle

  1. A product manager leads the product team

A project manager leads the project team

The highlighted words reveal the differences, which depend on whether products or projects are referred to.

To recap:

  • A product is a physical object or a service which is result of a production process.
  • A product project is the method and timing plan, which translates into fixed milestones, steps that will be taken from start to finish.

The two titles have similar job descriptions, but are divided by their subjects with product development on one side and product project on the other.

Product managers work with customers, the project manager,and the product team (to deliver an end product).

Project managers work with customers, the product manager, and the product & project team, to deliver a successful project.

What if one person combines both roles?

This is possible but not the wisest option as multitasking  is difficult when working on big projects that involve many collaborators.

This will reveal more differences

A project manager is familiar with the guidelines

Even though a product/project manager may sound appealing, it’s better to stick with the separate roles with their own specialty. A project manager is familiar with the guidelines to optimize project management. The actual manufacturing routine is safest in the capable hands of the product manager.

A combined role would have too many responsibilities. The strategies differ and project and product managers need a different approach to the team.

For example, product managers need to be more outgoing because they test the products in the outside world and work with the marketing & sales team, which requires particular social skills.

There are as many differences between the two roles as there are similarities.

Product and project managers are different positions which is reflected in their respective financial compensations.

Product manager vs project manager salary. The difference at the end of the month

Product manager vs project manager salary

Finding out the true salary of each of these titles is not easy because the roles often get mixed up. The “Product/project manager” job title is not uncommon and job sites still get confused. However, the specializations are increasingly expanded now, and businesses see the need for two separate roles.

According to Glassdoor the average American salary for a product manager is $108,992 and other sources mention an average pay of $114,000. The national average salary for a project manager should be much lower at $66,137.

Depending on the company and their specific job descriptions, the salaries can vary widely.

Ending thoughts on the product manager vs project manager debate

The two managers will look at their roles from a different angle. Product managers are strategic and focused on the product and its life cycle. Project managers are more tactical, focusing on the execution side of the project’s life cycle.

They have their own team to lead and to focus on because “product” isn’t a synonym for “project”.

As many similarities there may be, each role asks for a different approach, which is why a product manager and a project manager should be separate roles that overlap in cooperation.

If you enjoyed reading this article on product manager vs project manager, you should check out this one about product manager salary.

We also wrote about a few related subjects like chief product officer, product manager skills, product launch checklist, product owner vs product manager, best product management books, product manager interview questions and product manager skills.