Product Manager vs Program Manager

product manager vs program manager

There can be a lot of gray areas about the differences between a Product Manager vs Program Manager depending on each individual company. Nevertheless, there are some key differences between both roles.

This week we’re continuing our mini-series contrasting the duties between Product Managers and other roles within an Agile team environment. Today we are exploring the roles and responsibilities of a Product Manager vs Program Manager. 

Product Manager vs Program Manager Definitions

A Product Manager tends to concentrate directly on all of the elements required to move their products forward strategically. A Program Manager, on the other hand, takes a holistic view across the company.

Product Manager

Product Managers focus more on what product to build and why. They own the product and are responsible for the success and failure of the product. Product management is the process of strategically guiding a company’s product growth, market launch, and ongoing support and enhancement. They are in charge of one or more of a company’s products from the moment the idea for that product is formulated until the end of its lifecycle.

Want to know more about the definition of product management? We have a blog post explaining what product management is in more detail.

Program Manager

Part of a Program Manager’s role includes identifying and organizing the interdependencies among programs, products, and strategic initiatives across an enterprise.

Program Managers are more focused on how to achieve certain goals and objectives in an efficient and effective way. They are responsible for the how and when to release products. They depend on Product Management to make sure that the outcomes that are desired are realistic, and work with other Program Managers to direct the timeline discussion based on the features that have been requested and resources that are available. They work on planning things such as budgets, when certain departments should start working on their part of the production, etc.

Responsibilities

A Product Manager is responsible for developing the roadmap and ensuring the ultimate success of a product. Here are some key Product Manager responsibilities:

  • Setting the strategy and vision of the product to align with business and user goals
  • Building a product roadmap
  • Works with engineers, designers, and stakeholders
  • Requirements evaluation
  • Stakeholder management

On the other hand, a Program Manager is in charge of determining the high-level business objective and leading a team of Project Managers to see that it is achieved.

To be clear, a program in an organization is a set of similar programs that work together to achieve a common objective. These initiatives could include introducing a new product, opening a new site, or implementing a new sales process.

The main difference between the roles lies in how they interact with a product. Whereas a Product Manager takes a centric view of a product from the user’s perspective, the Program Manager will be more focused on how the company is managing the resources across multiple projects.

Here’s an example of Program Manager responsibilities, according to Workable:

  • Formulating, organizing and monitoring inter-connected projects
  • Deciding on suitable strategies and objectives
  • Coordinating cross-project activities

Overlap

Product and Program Managers both collect and evaluate data to provide strategic guidance. The main aim of both positions is to deliver a new product successfully. Product Managers conduct rigorous market analysis to identify consumer needs and market prospects to ensure that the organization takes the most profitable approach.

A Program Manager collaborates with the Product Manager on the process and updates the Product Manager on progress toward the target. Both functions are intertwined, but their duties and goals are distinct.

Skills

Product Managers require unique traits to successfully navigate the deployment of a product. However, these traits can be extremely useful when applied to other positions within a company. For example, when comparing the skills needed by Product Managers vs Program Managers, both roles require superb knowledge of project and program management methodologies to achieve company goals within a project’s constraints.

While Product Managers and Program Managers both need to think creatively, communicate effectively, and display leadership skills across multiple teams, these skills will be applied differently within the company.

Typically, people believe that Product Managers need a higher level of technical acumen. However, To make a successful move, this isn’t always the case. The future of Product Management is developing quickly and the skills necessary to succeed are constantly shifting.

Product Manager vs Program Manager

Companies that provide several offerings need to formulate both Product Management and Program Management strategies to succeed. An organization can only make tangible changes and achieve a competitive advantage if it devotes enough time, resources, and effort at both a strategic and tactical level.

Transitioning from a Program Manager into a Product Manager role gives you the benefit of applying your skills nearly laterally. To help you make a successful switch, contact Product Gym. Our coaches have the expertise you need to begin your new career path. Speak with one of our representatives today to book your free consultation.

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