How to transition from a project manager to a product manager role?

People often get confused between product management and project management. Both are different job titles with some similarities and some dissimilarities. If you are a project manager interested in switching to a product manager’s role, you need to understand that it is a vast area and requires greater capability than your current role.

Let’s discuss what it takes to become a product manager from a project manager.

Similarities in the Roles

When we talk about the similarities in the potentials required for each role:

  • Both job titles need great communication skills
  • Both project managers and product managers act as a link between different departments. In both positions, you are the link that creates successful results by assisting various departments and teams to work together
  • Moreover, budgeting and planning are critical elements in both roles, and you still need the ability to manage risk, a degree of business acumen, and the ability to stay calm when you face various difficulties.

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What are the differences in the roles?

The primary difference between a project manager and a product manager is that:

  • Product Management, starts with why a product should be built, goes to what should be built and culminates in How to build it.
  • Project Management starts and ends at getting the product built. Project Managers also called Product owners in agile teams, groom the stories, and work with developers to execute the planned product

In simple terms, a product manager is responsible for working out the vision for the solution and sticks with it for the whole product lifecycle. On the other hand, a project manager is responsible for galvanizing the team to get the work completed to deliver on that vision.

As a product manager, you will be managing the complete product lifecycle that includes product concept/prototype, design, production, delivery, launch, customer service, updates, and eventually discharging the product. There are far more touchpoints and a lot of range planning involved in product management.

Compared to that, project managers work on delivering a part of the product lifecycle – the bit that involves building the product. With that said, project managers aren’t responsible for the overall success of the product.

How to make the change successfully?
Making a transition to product management should be relatively easy given that project management gives you extensive skills that are transferable.

However, it is easier said than done.

  • You need a big change of outlook. Your thinking has to become far more distant and no longer focused on the delivery point.
  • It also requires a more profound skill set in networking and marketing, along with a sharp focus on customer service.

It will be a difficult transition for you if you haven’t had much experience in these areas.

To make your transition much easier:

  • Build your business knowledge. Learn about the industry and the customers and emphasize how you can expose new insights into how the business operates.
  • Boost your skills in using and uncovering data and learn about analytics. You need to learn how to research customer behavior.
  • Start thinking about your customers, what motivates them, the challenges they face, etc.

As a product manager, you will be needed to work on every aspect of the product – from design to development, marketing, and even termination. So, you need to learn to be proactive, decisive and a people person to be effective.

Product Management is an incredibly satisfying career, and transitioning from project management is going to be fairly easy if you focus on user empathy, and delivering value.

February 4, 2020

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