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It’s Not About Projects vs. Products; It’s About Coming Together to Deliver Value

Product management should not replace project management. They are complementary and are both integral to enabling the frequent delivery of business value.

Let’s first look at commonly accepted definitions:

Projects and Project Management: “A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources. A project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal. … Project Management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements” (Project Management Institute).

Product Management: Project management “includes the acts of identifying and evolving your organization’s business vision; of identifying and prioritizing potential products/solutions to support that vision; of identifying, prioritizing, and allocating features to products under development; of managing functional dependencies between products; and of marketing those products to their potential customers” (Disciplined Agile).

Initially, it does seem that these points are in contention with each other. TaskTop talks about the importance of moving projects to products. Tasktop CEO Mik Kersten refers to project management as being “the wrong model if you want to become a software innovator.”

Our Take

We support the assertion that pure projects and project management are not adequate to deliver lasting value. While the definitions and supporting literature take a stronger stance, we assert that transitioning from project thinking to product thinking is not binary. This comes from a misunderstanding of products and projects.

  • A product and its lifecycle enable a continuous delivery of value without a predefined end date.
  • Projects are time bound, acting as vehicles to enable the delivery of discrete pieces of value within the broader product lifecycle.

Product management is accountable for the continual delivery of value throughout the product lifecycle, from project to project and in-between. You go through a period or periods of project-like development to build a version of an application or product.

Essentially, product thinking does not make project thinking go away. However, it does alert people to the differing scopes for each and when to best apply them.


Want to Know More?

Transition to Product Delivery – Transitioning to product delivery in order to continually deliver value does not mean throwing away your project practices.

Build a Product Roadmap – Both projects and products can benefit from a flexible, concise, and effectively communicated roadmap.

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