If you’re an aspiring or practicing project manager, you may have heard that there are two types of managers in business today: product managers and programs (or program managers). What does this mean? And how can you tell which type of manager will be best suited to your needs as an employee?
While it might seem like a simple answer -- “product managers manage products, while program managers manage projects” -- understanding the nuances behind each title is important if you want to know where your career path lies. Here we'll explore some key definitions about both titles, so you won't get confused by their similarities and differences when trying to find out whether they're right for you.
A product manager has the primary responsibility of managing all aspects of a company’s product development process, from defining its goals and objectives to overseeing the creation and maintenance of the product itself. As such, he or she must understand the market well enough to identify problems with existing products before those issues surface into customer complaints and a potential decline in sales.
As an example, let’s say you work in software. You create new features for your product every year but only half of them ever make it onto your customers' computers. That means 50% of your yearly revenue could potentially go missing! In order to combat this problem, you need someone who understands the intricacies of how people use software on a daily basis. This person would then be able to determine exactly why certain features aren’t being used and devise ways to solve it through other features instead.
This kind of knowledge isn’t just useful for ensuring profitability though. It also helps ensure long-term success because without knowing exactly how the target audience uses your product, you can’t anticipate future problems or changes. A good product manager should therefore always keep abreast of industry trends and technological advancements in order to stay competitive.
In addition to creating and maintaining the product itself, a good product manager is responsible for finding ways to improve upon his or her own product. While many companies already employ engineers whose sole purpose is to develop new features, a product manager takes things further by analyzing user feedback and determining areas where improvements can be made. He or she then presents solutions to the team, which includes engineers, designers, marketers, etc., and works together to implement said ideas.
Lastly, product managers are often called upon to help plan marketing campaigns around their product. They not only analyze competitors’ offerings, but also consider other factors such as brand reputation, current events, and consumer behavior. Once a campaign is planned, the product manager then ensures that everything runs smoothly once the campaign begins.
For most product managers, working under a program manager comes naturally since they were probably trained as programmers themselves. However, for others, becoming a product manager usually requires additional training in fields outside of programming. Some examples include data science, psychology, statistics, operations research, usability testing, etc. Many universities offer courses specifically designed to train students interested in pursuing a career in product management.
Regardless of whether you received formal education or not, learning more about the field and honing your skills is essential to landing a position in product management. If you don’t feel comfortable answering questions related to data analysis or human psychology, you can learn the basics online. Then, after you've gained experience in those areas, apply for positions within organizations that specialize in product management. These kinds of jobs typically require candidates to possess strong interpersonal communication skills and analytical thinking abilities.
Many people tend to confuse product management with project management simply because both involve planning and organizing tasks. But beyond that, the two roles differ significantly.
Project managers are primarily concerned with completing specific deliverables within strict timeframes. They oversee multiple teams throughout different phases of a single project and often serve as point persons for clients. Because of this, project managers spend much of their day communicating with stakeholders regarding timelines, budgets, resources, schedules, and any other requirements necessary for a successful completion of the task at hand.
On the contrary, product managers focus on the overall health of the entire product, not just individual pieces. Their main objective is to make sure that no major flaws exist within the product, regardless of whether it's a feature or something else entirely. For example, they might monitor the quality of customer support services provided by a particular department, ensure that the number of bugs found during beta tests doesn’t exceed acceptable levels, or even keep track of how frequently users stop using the app due to glitches.
Because of this, product managers are expected to communicate regularly with developers, engineers, designers, and anyone else involved in the production of their product. They also interact closely with customers, especially early on in the life cycle. All too often, however, they fail to do this effectively, resulting in poor performance.
Furthermore, unlike project managers, product managers rarely deal directly with stakeholder groups including executives, board members, investors, and shareholders. Instead, they report to higher-ups, who decide what direction to move forward with based on their input. The fact that product managers are less likely than project managers to play a direct role in decision making makes them better suited for senior leadership positions.
There are several reasons why you might see people interchangeably referring to a product and a program. One reason is that product managers sometimes refer to their product as "the" product rather than "a" product. Another common mistake is calling a product "program," as opposed to "project."
But the biggest issue here is that the two terms are extremely interrelated. When people speak of a "product," they almost always mean a finished product. On the other hand, a "program" refers to the steps taken towards achieving a goal. So, if you ask someone what a product is, chances are they’ll respond with a name or definition of a physical item. Similarly, asking someone what a program is yields answers relating to plans, strategies, and anything else associated with reaching a goal.
Ultimately, a product is an object intended to satisfy a specific set of desires. By contrast, a program is a series of actions meant to achieve a given outcome. To put it another way, a product is a solution to a problem whereas a program is a method for solving said problem.
To illustrate this concept, imagine that you run a small hardware store selling household appliances. After a few years of running the shop, you notice that demand for washers seems to be consistently low compared to demand for dryers. Your hypothesis is that customers prefer washing clothes over drying them, so maybe you should sell dishwashers next.
You begin researching this idea, looking up appliance prices and discussing your findings with colleagues. Eventually, you come across a study conducted by an organization specializing in this research area. Based on this information, you decide to add a line of dishwashers to your inventory.
Now, you can either call this event a product launch or a program rollout. Both names are valid depending on whom you ask. Ultimately, you didn’t change your product lineup, nor did you introduce a completely new product altogether. Rather, you changed the way you marketed your old product to reflect changing tastes.
So, if you think back to our previous analogy above, you’d classify the action described earlier as a program rollout. At first glance, it looks very similar to the initial stage of launching a product, but ultimately, it’s quite different.
It turns out that the term “launch” actually stems from the word “launching,” meaning “to fire a missile from a gun.” Thus, whenever you hear someone talk about launching a product, they’re really talking about firing a bullet-shaped projectile from a weapon.
That’s not to say that a product launch never involves introducing a new product to the market. Sometimes, businesses introduce new items in order to compete against rivals, or to increase profits. Regardless of the case, however, the end result remains the same: a new product enters the market place.
Similarly, when you encounter phrases like “rolling out a new version,” “rollout,” or “going live with a new service,” you can assume that a new version of a product is coming soon. Again, this terminology differs from the phrase “introducing a new product,” which implies that a new product has been introduced but hasn’t yet reached consumers.
With that in mind, now that you’ve learned all you needed to about product versus program management, you can confidently navigate this murky waters. Just remember that although product and program sound alike, they’re not interchangeable words.
The product management vs. program management distinction is a tricky one, especially when talking about the job of the product manager and what they do.
In business, there are two distinct types of managers, who manage different aspects of products. The primary difference between them, however, is in their approach to the development process. Product management aims to produce high value products that satisfy customers' needs. In contrast, program management seeks to produce low-value products that meet internal company goals or compete with competitors. Program managers use programs as tools for achieving results, rather than as ends in themselves.
The terms "product" and "program" can be used interchangeably in this context; however, it's important to note that neither word applies exclusively to the other. They refer to a set of tasks that fulfill the same objectives, but where each stage has its own distinctive characteristics. If a particular program was focused on meeting an objective--such as improving customer service or increasing sales by 10%--it would likely fall under the category of product management instead. However, if a company was creating software applications aimed at solving problems within their corporate culture, they wouldn't have any need for everyday functionality and might choose to focus more heavily on integrating new features into existing systems.
So, which term is more appropriate? Well... it depends. When people think of product manager, they tend to picture someone who works on large-scale projects such as engineering teams responsible for developing new aircrafts and launching rocket ships. It's not necessarily the case that these individuals will also be involved in creating small-scale programs to build niche products targeted towards specific markets. On the other hand, many companies in sectors such as financial services and health care often prefer using product managers as part of their "product strategy team." This is because product managers develop plans outlining how to address key issues within their industry and help steer decisions regarding future direction.
A program is simply defined as a set of activities designed to achieve a goal. It may involve building a marketable concept into a final product (or several), working out the best way to reach your target audience or determining how much money you need before launching your first campaign. Regardless of size or scale, most programs will follow the same basic structure: you're looking for ways to improve performance through measurable steps, formalized by rules and procedures throughout the life cycle of your project. Programs can take place across multiple departments within a company or could even be led by an external organization like a university or research institute.
If your program involves taking aim at changing an industry trend or problem area, then it's probably going to require substantial resources from outside sources due to the scale involved. On the other hand, if your program has no clear objectives, but just focuses on exploring potential solutions for a specific issue, then it probably won't require anything more than conducting focus groups and interviews with clients and stakeholders. There's no set time limit on how long programs should last either; sometimes you'll have only months left before you've lost enough momentum to continue advancing your work effortally any further!
It's worth noting that while all programs eventually end up leading back to customers with some form of tangible benefit, some receive additional forms of funding beyond those needed for simple cost recovery (e.g., grants). Such programs typically run parallel to other initiatives within larger organizations and are generally decided upon well in advance so that they can be executed efficiently and effectively.
Product managers are held accountable for overseeing overall product functions and delivering quality products that meet expectations from users. As such, they oversee internal processes including requirements gathering and teamwork among developers and designers, as well as ensuring that specific designs meet design standards set by management during testing phases; ultimately placing greater responsibility in their hands over their teams' ability to deliver high-quality results.
Program managers are responsible for ensuring that products reach their intended goals - whether that means promoting efficiency within units or completing lots of feature requests from stakeholders - without putting too much pressure on developers and designers by asking them to deliver high-quality work quickly . Their role requires them to stay away from traditional deadlines and work methods that result in poor quality outputs so they can focus on getting things done with less risk of failure. They might ensure that test cases and documentation are completed correctly before moving onto the next step of execution, giving them plenty of time to collect feedback along the way.
When both roles are combined together, they create a powerful team intent on producing true value wherever possible; shifting attention away from short-term operational concerns and focusing entirely on maximizing developer satisfaction. Conversely, as seen in many startups operating in mature industries today, where competition prompts teams to constantly look towards squeezing every last dollar out of both budget and staff, it's easy for employees to get overwhelmed by everything happening around them without having a clear vision for how goals are achieved specifically at any given point in time . Even though programs don't typically span large distances or require significant investment upfront for completion or expansion once it's underway, the outcomes consistently exceed expectations by far. After all, no matter what industry you're trying to solve, successful programs never stop growing or changing over time anyway... so why worry about being complacent and falling behind?!
Some experts believe that there's actually very little difference between product managers' salaries versus program managers', largely due to the fact that program managers are currently facing an influx of talent seeking opportunities within tech-oriented companies while companies still struggle with retaining highly-skilled workers despite hiring incentives geared towards attracting top talent early on. These realities mean that wages can fluctuate according to individual level of experience (e.g., starting salaries vary considerably depending on years spent at certain companies) but generally average around $110k per year based on salary estimates provided by Glassdoor Research[i]. Still others cite slightly lower numbers as evidence against this justification; reports suggest that more experienced managers might earn $130K+ whereas less experienced ones might bring home $90K+. That said, we always recommend keeping an eye out for current employee retention rates at any company you're interested in joining; after all, reaping benefits from your hard work isn't something you want to rush through!
As mentioned previously, program managers must remain focused on satisfying organizational needs alongside ongoing delivery priorities since it's almost impossible for them to drive desired results without knowing exactly what success looks like ahead of time . Furthermore, because program managers are typically hired directly by senior executives rather than being promoted via lateral moves (which inherently limits their scope of influence), compensation tends not to reflect this kind of importance nearly as strongly as it does in regular employment situations where promotion occurs organically over time. Without understanding exactly what makes a good program manager -- based off practical experiences with existing programs -- it's difficult to spot them amongst competitors in recruitment ads unless they already put their name forward! That said, most companies do indeed pay above market rates because they know they're getting exceptional talent at a reasonable price!
In many companies, it’s hard to tell whether you're dealing with a product manager or a program manager. The two roles are often confused by managers who haven't done their research into each discipline. What exactly is the difference between them? And how do they differ from other positions in an organization?
There are more similarities than differences when looking at the role of a product manager versus that of a program manager. Both have to manage products while also managing projects within their departments. They both need to ensure that all stakeholders are satisfied with the products being created, as well as making sure that those same people know about upcoming changes to existing products.
A product manager can work on multiple different types of products simultaneously (software, hardware, etc.), but a program manager typically works closely with only one type of product per department. This means that if there are no new software releases for your company this year, then you won’t be working on any software development tasks. On the flip side, however, if there was some sort of major technological breakthrough released, then you could potentially get involved with several different kinds of programs.
So which should you choose to go down? It depends on where you want to end up in life. If you want to become a product manager, you'll need to spend years learning everything you can about your chosen field before you even think about applying for jobs. However, if you just want to focus on one area, then you might find yourself better off going with a program manager position instead. You will still learn a lot about every aspect of the business, but you won't necessarily need to devote so much time studying specific technologies. You'll likely gain experience faster because you don't have to worry about coming up against unfamiliar terminology.
Let's take a closer look at what makes a product program manager job unique compared to its counterpart. We've broken down the differences below.
Both a product and a program are concepts used in business. A program refers to something that has been planned out ahead of time, and a product is something that's ready to ship after it's been completed. For example, if you were building a house, you wouldn't build it until you had designed it and ordered materials for the construction process. Then once you received the supplies, you'd start putting together the pieces.
When deciding between a product and a program, keep in mind that a program doesn't always mean that there isn't already an idea of what will happen next. In fact, sometimes a plan needs to change during the course of production, causing a shift away from a "product" mentality.
If you're working under a product manager, he/she will be responsible for leading the creation of a final product that meets customer expectations. When creating a product, you have to make sure that it fulfills certain requirements such as delivering value to customers, keeping costs low, maintaining quality standards, and ensuring that users receive reliable results.
On the other hand, a program manager focuses primarily on planning and organizing resources rather than actually developing a physical item. He/she must create a clear vision that encompasses the entire scope of his/her department and determine how best to allocate staff members across various parts of the project. While a product manager may not be directly responsible for creating a finished product, she does play a vital part in getting things underway.
Programs tend to last longer than products since they require ongoing maintenance throughout their existence -- especially if they contain complex technology. Since most organizations use programs frequently, it would be difficult to say that a single individual manages them all. Instead, teams of employees usually handle all aspects of the operation.
While a product manager is typically in charge of overseeing the overall direction of a particular program, he/she could possibly oversee other programs as well. Some firms have separate departments dedicated to product and program administration. Other times, a person holds both titles depending on the situation.
It really comes down to personal preference. As previously stated, someone who wants to become a product manager will probably need to dedicate years to honing his/her skillset in order to succeed. Even though becoming a product manager requires extensive knowledge in areas like engineering, marketing, sales, finance, and human resource management, there aren't many openings available right now. Most people prefer to remain in their current positions and continue growing professionally.
On the other hand, anyone interested in becoming a program manager can begin training immediately without having to wait around for a career opportunity to arise. There are plenty of opportunities to apply for, and you shouldn't feel pressured to choose either option based solely upon your interest level. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make, regardless of what others think.
To wrap up our overview of the differences between product and program management, here is a list of pros and cons associated with each title. Which group sounds like the one for you?
Pros & Cons Of Being A Product Manager Or Program Manager
- More control over the outcome of the product
- Better understanding of technology
- Ability to develop new ideas
- Longer path to success
- Higher chance of burnout
- Less money earned
- Time spent doing non-productive activities
- High stress levels
- Risk of losing clients to competitors
Now that we've covered all of the key points about the differences between product and program management, let's move onto another topic. Keep reading to discover why so many organizations struggle to identify the ideal candidate for the job!
How To Hire An Excellent Product Management Candidate
Whether you're hiring for a new product team member, or simply replacing an outgoing employee, knowing how to hire the perfect fit for your company can save you hours of frustration. Here are five tips to help you select the best possible candidates for your next position.
1. Be careful of resumes written in third-person perspective.
Most recruiters know that candidates write their own resumes and tailor them to suit their desired employer. So, if you see a resume that includes information about the applicant's accomplishments and goals, chances are good that it wasn't written by him/her.
2. Don't overlook social media posts.
This is a great way to get a glimpse into potential candidates' personalities. People love posting selfies online, so pay attention to comments made in photos or videos. Also, check out their LinkedIn profile. Does it match up with their Facebook page? Do they include links to relevant webpages? These are signs that the candidate is authentic.
3. Look beyond GPA scores.
GPA stands for grade point average, meaning that higher numbers indicate a stronger academic background. Although GPAs are important, employers also look at extracurricular activities and experiences outside the classroom. Consider asking applicants for examples of their work portfolios, volunteerism, professional associations, community involvement, or anything else that shows initiative and leadership abilities.
4. Check references thoroughly.
Ask former coworkers or supervisors for recommendations. They'll give honest feedback regarding the candidate's strengths and weaknesses. Make note of anything negative and try to avoid hiring someone whose reputation is tainted.
5. Take personality tests seriously.
Employees with similar interests tend to bond quickly and share common values. So, ask questions related to hobbies and pastimes in order to gauge compatibility. You can also conduct interviews with prospective hires to assess how they interact with co-workers.
These tips offer valuable insights into what kind of personality traits you should search for in future candidates. Now that you understand the basics behind choosing the best product management candidate, it's time to delve deeper into the subject. Learn how to evaluate a candidate's qualifications using our guide to interviewing product managers.
For more advice on finding the best possible candidate, read How to Find Top Talent With Interview Tips From Industry Experts.
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