Q: "What's the difference between a Product Manager, Project Manager & a Program Manager?"
These job titles can get confusing at times as organizations tend to use them interchangeably or have considerable overlap in duties.
On paper, however, the roles do have different areas of focus.
Let me use a housing analogy here to explain:
𝟭- 𝗔 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗱𝘂𝗰𝘁 𝗠𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝗱𝗲𝗰𝗶𝗱𝗲𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱 & 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝗯𝘂𝗶𝗹𝗱 𝗶𝘁
They figure out:
🔹 what potential residents would like in a home (customer discovery)
🔹 draft the blueprint of the house (strategy, roadmap & specs)
🔹 elect what part of the house to build first (prioritization)
🔹 manage expectations with investors, clients, construction teams (stakeholder management) etc.
2- 𝗔 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗷𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝗠𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝘄𝗻𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘀𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲
They're responsible for:
🔸 the "how" & "when" i.e. build the house right & manage expectations on when it'll be ready. (timeline management)
🔸 taking the blueprint of the house from the Product Manager & drawing out a plan. (project plans)
🔸 allocating the necessary team of builders, drawing out timelines & monitoring progress like a hawk. (resource management)
🔸 anticipating & raising red flags well beforehand (risk registers)
🔸 getting clarity on fuzzy areas & priorities
𝟯- 𝗔 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗺 𝗠𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗴𝗲𝗿 drives 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗼𝘂𝘀𝗲'𝘀 𝗲𝘅𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗮𝗳𝗳𝗮𝗶𝗿𝘀
They have a say on the house design/ blueprints but they also:
🔷 coordinate with providers to finalize & install interior fixtures (cross-functional work)
🔷 work with real estate agents to put the house on the market (work with sales/marketing on go-to-market campaigns)
🔷 sort out documentation & house approvals (work with legal, accessibility teams)
🔷 check if the house conforms with neighborhood/municipality rules (cohesion with sister products/suites)
But how are these roles used in practice?
👉 𝗜𝗻 𝗺𝗼𝘀𝘁 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗽𝘀, all three roles are owned & executed by 1 full-stack product manager.
👉 𝗜𝗻 𝗺𝗶𝗱-𝘀𝗶𝘇𝗲𝗱 𝗼𝗿𝗴𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘇𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀, the Product Manager becomes more strategic while Product owners/ Business Analysts pick up the detailed specifics. Project delivery is either owned by tech leads or dedicated Project Managers.
Product Marketing Managers, primarily responsible for go-to-market & demand generation, often extend their duties to pull off a number of Program Management duties.
👉 𝗜𝗻 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗻 𝗹𝗮𝗿𝗴𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗿𝗴𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘇𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀, they may have a Product Manager for each workstream, some Project Managers alongside tech to monitor the overall assembly line & Program Managers to apply the glue between the product stack & other functional areas.
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