Project management

3 daily hacks to combine the role of product manager and project manager

3 daily hacks to combine the role of product manager and project manager
I'm Marie-Louise!

In my 20 years of working as a product & project manager, I’ve got to know some great tools and gained valuable experience to efficiently develop products. I love to share my knowledge and these tools with you.

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Often have I carried the ‘product management hat’ and at the same time the ‘project management hat’ during a new product development project. Was this difficult to do? No, not really, as the responsibility of both roles was very clear and I had a lot of experience in both roles. Was there ever a friction in time management between both roles? Did one role sometimes get priority over the other? Yes, definitely. That’s why I want to share the 3 daily hacks to combine the role of product manager and project manager

Do you combine the role of product manager and project manager in your business? Let me share some personal experience how its worked for me.

Hack # 1 to combine the role of product manager and project manager: Create a daily priority list for both functions

Long term goals might suffer from the short term crises that need to be tackled. In your product management role, working on product strategy and road mapping is very important to guarantee successful product development on the long term.

While in your project management role, managing the daily challenges of new product development needs your focus.

Your strategic product management activities sometimes suffer because of urgent daily project issues that need to be picked up right away. When you carry both hats during the same project, you need to divide your time. As both these roles require focus, hard work, motivation and dedication, it is obvious that this can create a time fringe somewhere down the road.

Hack # 2 to work efficient in both roles: Define clear deliverables for both roles.

But not only time management between these roles is challenging. What about the different skills, background, education and knowledge that are needed for both roles? Are these identical for both product management and project management? Or is there a big difference? Not every product manager is fit for the role as project manager and visa versa. Can you excel in both roles?

The life of a product manager

When you look a the role of product manager, you see that it requires other skills than the role of project manager. The product management role is more focused on defining the customer requirements, having thorough market knowledge and technical product knowledge. Next to operational activities like bench marking, price setting and user experience analysis, defining the product strategy and long term road mapping are the strategic responsibilities of product managers.

To be successful as product manager, you need skills like ability to translate customer requirements into successful product propositions, ability to define the long term product strategy, be able to assure the right product design and aesthetics, creativity in discussions with development on technical issues and how that impacts the final product, be able to create the financial, technical and commercial feasibility, deciding with the logistic responsible on the ramp-up quantities. And so on….

Product managers need to deal with the input of many different disciplines in the organisation, including third party suppliers and other external organisations. One of their main responsibilities is to ensure that during product development, the product requirements are embedded in the right way, so the end product will be delighting their customers.

The life of a project manager

While the product manager is more ‘product focused’, the project manager focuses on the complete project.

This entails people management, financial project responsibility, project planning, managing manufacturing, assembly and logistics. Daily managing expectations on different levels in the organization

All these activities, require skills like having a helicopter view, having good planning capabilities, using a structured way of working, ability to convince and create leverage with stakeholders in different functions and departments, motivate project team members to give their utmost to the project. The main responsibility of the project manager is to ensure in time delivery of the project, right product, right place, right price and within budget.

The main common skills that are required in both roles are having a helicopter view and good communication skills, to level with different people on different levels within and outside the organization. If you apply the 3 daily hacks to combine the role of product manager and project manager, and if you obtain these common skills you’ve nothing to worry about!

Hack # 3 to combine both roles: Structure – plan – check – follow up.

Some years ago I came across an interesting blog article on this subject, written by Treemis Skeete from Mind the Product. It is an interesting article about ‘ Why Product Management should not be responsible for Project Management’. His conclusion is that you can never excel in both roles. Next to that, he says “urgent matters like on time delivery of the new product often gets priority over product strategy”. Therefore it is better to focus on one role and not to carry these two different hats during a new product development.

I do share his opinion when it comes to complex products or projects. For sure these roles should be fulfilled by two different project team members.

One must do is to structure the deliverables, activities and responsibilities of the new product development. The team needs to plan the project and activities in detail, check and follow-up on open actions on a weekly basis. Use a template for your meetings meetings and actions and register the progress. Discuss and evaluate the project planning every week in your project team. In this way all the activities and responsibilities for product management and project management will be transparent.

Read more about this in my blog post on Why regular core project team meetings are a must.

My personal experience with carrying both hats during less complex projects is that this can be done very successfully. There is an overlap in skills that are needed in both roles. If you are a successful product manager and you have a natural talent for project management, just go ahead!

Here you have it, 3 daily hacks to combine the role of product manager and project manager. Hopefully they will help you to be successful in both roles!

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Hi, I'm Marie-Louise.

I help project managers and entrepreneurs become successful in managing
new product development projects.
And create space in their day so they work efficient and can manage their teams with confidence.

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