A5.3 Project Management vs. Product Management

Projects vs. Product (A5.3.P1)

“Projects” are the way that new work gets delivered. All organizations have projects. Projects can be managed using a common set of project management processes. “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.

“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 life cycle 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 life cycle. 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 the idea can be funded. If the idea is never fulfilled, then the product management life cycle 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

All of these areas make up a typical product lifecycle.

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