Project vs Product Management

Managing a product like it were a project and vice versa is a very common management mistake and you shouldn’t be ashamed if you’ve done so before. You should, however, be ashamed if – after noticing the astounding differences – you continue to do so.

Project and product management may have a few similarities but we’ll focus on the differences here, to help you make informed decisions when choosing your management methods.

Project and product management: where are the differences?

For starters, let’s consider the definition of project: to begin with, projects will always have a distinctive beginning, middle and end – the end of a project being determined by achieving – or failing to – the determined goals.

When working on a project, you’re assigned a determined set of resources you’ll be able to use in order to complete it. You’ll also have a well defined goal to begin with – this is what’ll determine if the project itself was successful: if the project achieves the goal, it was successful; if not, it wasn’t.

Product management, however, is much more subjective, it’s about discovery and cyclic work than working with defined timeframes and goals. Managing a product is not a process with beginning, middle or end – it’s a cycle or, better yet, a series of cycles of iteration, feedback and deployments. The cycles within product management will cover many aspects, such as discovering the customer’s needs, experimentation, testing, development and update deploys.

As any iterative process, managing a product is not a linear process as a project is – you have the opportunity and is constantly encouraged to look back and make changes whenever they make themselves necessary. Prioritising features is not set in stone and, if circumstances make it necessary, you’re able to reprioritise whenever you need.

You’re actually encouraged to reevaluate through all phases of product management – who’s never prioritised a certain feature only to figure out, after further investigation, it’s not that much of a priority after all? Circumstances are constantly changing and you have to be able to reorder your priorities to adapt.

When working on a project, you’ll most likely have defined dates for all specific phases of it – it’s quite different with product management. Even though higher management and most of our stakeholders would love those long-term product roadmap items to have a due date, it doesn’t quite work like that.

What we said above about changing priorities also goes for product management dates – too much can – and most likely will – change along the road. You’ll also learn and introduce new facts down the line – what may cause more changes – so don’t get yourself too attached to deadlines and due dates here.

How can I properly manage my projects and products?

For all its possible variables, it’s safe to say attempting to manage a product like it were a project will only lead to disappointment. Product management is not a neatly arranged set of tasks to be completed with determined resources on determined dates.

Thinks won’t necessary move from left to right without skipping one or two steps, going backwards or even adding new steps along the way. For this reason, any tool you decide to use for managing products should allow for non-linear processes. Here at Pipefy we offer you the possibility of adding as many action buttons as you deem necessary to your phases, allowing you tasks cards to be moved wherever you feel like they should be.

This doesn’t necessarily mean a task manager and/or a project management tools can’t also be used for specific phases of product management. Within Pipefy, for example, you can use our product roadmap template for the non-linear movements and feature prioritising and, whenever a feature is set for development – consequently being given defined goal, resources and timeline – you can open a card in software development through a connection.


Manage your projects and products with Pipefy!

For all the reasons stated above, Pipefy is a great tool for both project and product management. By being flexible and customisable, it allows for adaptations to your management processes whenever you feel they’re necessary.

Try our free Product Roadmap and Agile Software Development templates and choose to manage your projects and products in a dynamic and intuitive tool.

Written by Isabelle Salemme, Product content manager at Pipefy. She uses her extensive Pipefy knowledge to write informative pieces teaching users to make the best of Pipefy. Besides being responsible for all product-related content, she's an avid reader, a coffee lover and a professional photographer.