Product Management vs. Project Management:
What’s the Difference?

Product management and project management are often used interchangeably, but they are different disciplines that require different skills and tools.

product management planning board

Product Managers vs. Project Managers

It’s common for people to confuse product managers and project managers — even within industries, like software, that employ both. Just ask any product manager (PM), or project manager (also PM), and they’ll tell you they’ve been referred to as the other more times than they can count. But the responsibilities are very different.

  • Product managers drive the development of products. They prioritize initiatives and make strategic decisions about what gets built. They are often considered to be the CEO of a product line.
  • Project managers, on the other hand, often oversee the execution of plans that have already been developed and approved.

Product Management Software vs. Project Management Software

Product management software and project management software are entirely different tools — each designed for a different type of role, to help address different business needs.

The key distinction: Product management software helps product managers organize, develop, and communicate the product strategy, while project management software helps project managers (and others responsible for building the product) track the execution of the strategy.

Differences between product management and project management software

Product Management Software

Product management software helps track the high level requirements, document the product vision, communicate the strategy, establish priorities and rough timeframes, and indicate high level estimates.

Product Roadmap Software

Product roadmap software is a specific type of product management software designed to communicate the product strategy — the goals and rough timeframe needed to achieve them. It often shows the product initiatives among the company’s existing offerings.

The best product roadmap software tools generate visual, easy-to-grasp roadmaps. These tools are also often used to build roadmaps for executives and other leadership-level stakeholders — to secure buy-in for product initiatives.

By keeping the focus at a strategic level, product roadmap software lets the product manager develop — and then clearly present to various audiences — a clear vision, plan and set of requirements to bring the product to life.

Project Management Software

Project management software is a tactical tool used to track and manage all of the details of a project. You can think of project management software as the tool used after a product (or project or other initiative) has received the green light to begin.

In other words, if a product manager uses product roadmap software to win executive buy-in to develop a new product, then a project manager might use project management software (think Atlassian JIRA) to build and then execute a detailed development plan.

This software helps project managers capture and share all of the ground-level details such as deadlines, tasks, subtasks, jobs completed and jobs outstanding, assets needed, and collaboration among team members.

Choosing the right tool for the job is important. In the end, successful companies need both product management and project management software.