Many articles of opinion are written trying to succinctly explain the difference between product and project management in the digital industry. After two and a half years juggling between these two worlds, my takeaways are:
1st – They are similar enough to overlap yet different to the point you feel the need to clearly distinguish them and act accordingly.
2nd – Product = Project + go to market. The moment you try to monetise or create a user base for an application, your are bringing business into the mix and you just crossed the line to product management either you like it or not!
3rd – Product is proactive, project is reactive. It’s part of the nature of the process. A project is requested by someone for you to do in the form of requirements, that tend to change through the ideation / development / testing process. A product is an idea you believe enough to take initiative and try to build it and sell it, either from scratch or from a sort of prototype you already have.
4th – Product requires investment & risk. In project you get paid as you go. In product you work for free or in loss in hope of getting your money back tenfold sometime in the future, hopefully in a near one! Higher risk is inherent.
5th – Product needs strategy! The need for strategic thinking is directly proportional to the time, money, risk and ambition altogether!
6th – In project you look at your client, in product you look at the market. Account management turns into customer service, and an urgent client requirement can become a painful product feature.
7th – Product is more attractive than project, but well planned project making is better than hill product planning. So pick your battle before you start!