Complete Intro to Product Management

Product vs Project Management

Brian Holt

Brian Holt

SQLite Cloud
Complete Intro to Product Management

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The "Product vs Project Management" Lesson is part of the full, Complete Intro to Product Management course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Brian begins highlighting a product manager's role by comparing it with adjacent management positions. While a product manager may need to help with project management, the core responsibility of a project manager is to keep a team aligned on the work required and when it will be delivered.


Transcript from the "Product vs Project Management" Lesson

>> So let's talk about what a PM does because I get this question a lot. It's like, okay, you're a product manager, what the hell does that actually mean? And one, I actually don't know, [LAUGH]. It's strongly varies by which company you're at, and strongly varies by the context that you're in and what's necessarily and what's needed.

So I'm gonna give you throw out some definitions, I'm gonna tell you a lot of things that a PM is not. But a lot of time the PM just ends up being glue that holds the team together, right? Your team needs X so you jump in and do X, they need marketing that there has been times where I've actually jumped in and helped with the coding sprints because I can write code.

I've done a lot of things in the name of product management. I've taken sales calls before. There's tons of stuff that a PM end up doing. There was one time I literally wouldn't worked. I don't think I can say the name of the company but I was embedded at a company for a week helping them implement my product, right?

For a company that you've definitely heard of. I've done sales calls with Disney. That was pretty cool. There's all sorts of really fun things that PMs get to do. There's also lots of really dumb stuff that PMs get to do. So we'll talk about that too. So, the first thing I wanted to call out here is I'm gonna say PM a lot and it's written a lot here.

And I'm gonna use that in reference to product manager. But there's a lot of jobs that have the initialization PM. And I'm just gonna say they have equal rights to the name PM. I'm not claiming that in the name of the product manager. It's just habit and it's outside.

I don't wanna say product manager that much it's too many syllables. That said, do usually see refer to either program or product managers. But I'm just disclaiming that so I don't get angry comments. I'm still gonna get angry comments, but at least I tell him like I told you so.

Okay. So, throughout this course I will try and answer what a PM is and what a PM does. But right now we're gonna go into find some other jobs first so that we can kind of bound what I think a product manager should be. So like I said before, this varies so much by company.

What a PM at Google does is extremely different than what a PM at Apple does, and it's extremely different than what a PM at Facebook and Microsoft and all those companies do. So, it's extremely contextual to the company, and even to the position. PM is a Microsoft. I have obviously worked there, so I have a lot of experience there.

What they do in one division of Microsoft is extremely different from a different division. So let's go through some other job titles, some other PM job titles and talk about what they do, and hopefully that'll illuminate a little bit what a product manager might do. So the first obvious one is project manager, and this is the job that I hate getting called.

They're extremely important, and I'm very happy it's not my job. But when people are like, hey, Brian, you're a project manager, I'm like, I don't want to be called that, [LAUGH]. And it's not that I have anything against PMs or against project managers. I think they're extremely important.

I just don't wanna do that job. So a project manager is someone that drives alignment in a huge organization by process, right? So they're the ones that are managing sprints. They're the ones that are going through and managing tickets. They're the ones doing reports on, we closed this many tickets this week.

We have this developer velocity. You can call them gyro jockeys. That's what I do, [LAUGH]. They are very important, but it's very process oriented. It's very much in the mechanics of who's assigned what ticket, when are they going to complete it. They keep teams on task, on timelines.

They're frequently Scrum Masters and agile certified, and it's not what I do. And again, they're important. I'm happy that to work with them. But if I had to do that job, I just wouldn't be happy one because I'm not good at it and two is I'm just not a very processed person right.

Now that being said, particularly when your team doesn't have a designated project manager. The product manager frequently ends up taking on a lot of these responsibilities. That's snowflake. That's a big part of my responsibilities is some project management because we don't have enough project managers to share around Snowflake and my team doesn't get access to one.

But even then, I kinda split that with my engineering manager, right? So it's not just me being total project manager, we kinda split it across multiple people. And you'll find that this is actually a common thing with product managers is, your team will need some role that doesn't exist yet, and so the product manager will kinda end up filling that.

This is what I'm talking about when the product manager is the glue of the team. I've had to do designs before and I'm not a designer. There's stuff like that. So project managers are critical in large companies because you have so many different teams moving in different directions, and the project managers kind of keep them moving and aligned is

>> Project manager synonymous with delivery manager?
>> So when I hear delivery manager, I equate that with release manager. That's the position that I worked with at Microsoft. It wasn't equivalent at Microsoft. So the release manager basically is like, you have dot NET, this massive project that has these big releases, and they're the kinda ones deciding, like, what makes this really use?

When is it gonna go out? How are we gonna manage that going out? And the project manager was kinda the person that was managing all the sprints to get there. So you'd kinda have those two positions working closely together to figure out when work was gonna be delivered and when they can be released together and those kinds of things.

I could see at maybe a smaller company those being the same position, but for me in that one experience, it's the only release manager I've ever worked with. It was not the same position.
>> Kinda drawing the spaces. It seems to me anyway, that when you're trying to draw a line between project product management and the other concerns that revolve there.

Product management is more concerned with a longer timeline in general project management. I think that you already said this is moving downfield, but the strategy of that movement is largely on the product side because you project management is generally not tasked with scoping timelines on long terms. Or at least outside of specific units of work.

>> I think you're getting to the what I hope to arrive to which is, the project manager is more concerned with the mechanics of what is getting done when, and the product manager is only concerned with like, what are we building? What things are we gonna build one, and then you kind of work with like one of those things and to go out.

And so I always framed my product management and it's like, what are we doing now? What are we doing soon? What are we doing later, right? And so you're right, we have that longer-term arc, longer-term vision strategy. I'm literally writing a strategy doc right now for my organization, right?

So I end up writing a lot of strategy docs. It's more concerned with what are we gonna build for our people, or for our users that we're concerned with. Yeah, I think you're right.

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