You might be familiar with (or at least have seen) the titles project, product, and program manager; but what do they actually do? Some of their responsibilities may slightly alter depending on the size and industry of the organization, but there are some standardized focuses, responsibilities, and skillsets needed to succeed.
A project is a temporary engagement related to a product or a program. It has a defined beginning and end in time, scope, and resources.
A project manager manages all deliverables for a finite engagement. They apply knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements (PMI).
A project manager’s responsibilities usually include:
- Manage project scope, risks, quality, budget, and deliverables.
- Develop project timelines, schedules, and milestones.
- Organize workflow and resource allocation.
- Facilitate project communication with both team members and leadership stakeholders.
A quality project manager should have:
- Detail-oriented planner who can keep a project moving forward.
- Experience working with project management software and other planning tools, such as work breakdown structures or Agile methodologies.
- Time management skills.
- Knowledge of properly distributing, managing, and utilizing time.
- Certifications in project management.
A product is anything that can be offered in the market to solve a problem or satisfy a need. It does not have to be limited to physical products but can also include a specific software or service. Products have a life cycle that typically includes introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. During this cycle, multiple projects may occur and the product will never be considered complete since users are always evolving with different needs.
A product manager manages all projects related to a specific product and leads the product team in planning, research, forecasting, and production.
A product manager’s responsibilities usually include:
- Own, supporting, and overseeing a lifecycle of a product.
- Works with product owner(s) to develop product vision.
- Product planning, research, forecasting, and production.
- Create and maintain a product roadmap.
- Conduct market research.
- Validate newly introduced features and see how they are adopted by customers.
- Balance business capabilities and values with the wants and needs of customers.
A quality product manager should have:
- Quality leadership and management skills.
- Good product sense and decision-making capabilities.
- Practical skills, hands-on experience, and product/project certifications.
- Market research skills.
A program is an ongoing entity (with or without an endpoint) encompassing many tracks and specific projects. It can consist of different projects that are interconnected and are also part of long-term business objectives.
A program manager manages all engagements (both project and product) related to a specifically identified business program. They lead the program strategy, and objectives, and assess the business impact.
A program manager’s responsibilities usually include:
- Oversee, identify, and coordinate the interdependencies among projects, products, and other important strategic initiatives across the organization.
- Control the program’s budget, comparing costs with realized profit and benefits.
- Assess possible risks and threats to the program and its success.
- Oversee a group of dependent projects to reach the program goals and align with long-term business objectives.
- Reporting on performance to key stakeholders and leadership.
- Uphold stable communication with all stakeholders.
A quality program manager should have:
- Strong leadership skills and can focus on strategy.
- A greater sense of strategic vision beyond the details of individual projects.
- Experience with budget planning, program strategy, and communication across departments.
Project, product, and program management roles can slightly fluctuate depending on the size and industry of the organization they are affiliated with, However, it is important to understand that they will have some standardized focuses, responsibilities, and skillsets to be successful at their roles. Having clearly defined roles and responsibilities allows your organization to work more efficiently and effectively.