If you’re keen to understand the difference between a Program Manager and a Product Manager, we’ve got you covered.
Despite both roles being management-based positions and having similar titles, each has a distinct set of goals and responsibilities.
What is a Product Manager?
A product manager focuses on deciding what types of products to build, and the justification behind building them. They’re solely responsible for the success or failure of a new product. Similar to a program manager, they rely on leadership skills and communication expertise needed to lead an organization and make effective strategic decisions.
What Does a Product Manager Do?
Both product managers and program managers gather and analyze data in order to provide useful strategic direction. Their primary goal is to successfully launch a new product. To ensure the company follows the most profitable approach, product managers carry out extensive market research to understand customer requirements and market opportunities.
Product Managers also keep a check on the availability of financial and technical resources. After the research and assessment phase is complete, project managers communicate the strategy to the stakeholders and decision-makers of the firm.
Following approval, the product manager transforms the strategy into a workable plan and ensures other team members understand their roles and responsibilities.
What Skills Are Needed to Become a Product Manager?
Managing a product requires a combination of hard and soft skills. A great product manager possesses many of the abilities mentioned below:
- Understand The Development Process - Product managers need to have a concrete understanding of product development frameworks and processes. They must be able to understand the finer details of the process together with the dynamics of the team they’re going to work with.
- Budgeting - A Product Manager must be able to fully comprehend the company finances. An extensive product roadmap should be created that forecasts expenditure and accounts for every aspect of the product development process.
- Prioritization - Product Managers must be extremely efficient at prioritizing different tasks. They must be aware of each milestone and be capable of saying no when required. The Product Manager has to assess the impact of each feature on the plan and quickly find solutions to deal with any issues.
- Good Communication - Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important soft skills needed by Product Managers. They must be able to communicate with stakeholders, Project Managers, consumers, and all team members.
Other skills required to become a Product Manager include:
- Strong problem-solving skills and a good work ethic
- Excellent verbal communication skills
- Skilled at working effectively with various teams in an organization
- Dedication and enthusiasm towards achieving a goal
Many of these soft skills also apply if you aspire to become a program manager.
What Are The Job Responsibilities of a Product Manager?
Responsibilities of a Product Manager include:
- Determining the needs of customers in the market
- Reviewing new product ideas
- Assessing market competition
- Working with the sales team to develop innovative sales strategies
- Creating goals and forecasting sales
- Creating analysis reports of the product's performance in the market
- Determining a product's pricing by carrying out thorough market research
- Reviewing sales and production costs
- Documenting high-level requirements
- Providing insight to stakeholders on both the market and the product
- Managing product profitability and commercial success
- Converting business strategies into product strategies
- Maintaining Product Management staff by recruiting and training employees
- Assessing the performance of every team associated with the product
- Completing operational requirements by scheduling and assigning employees
How to Become a Product Manager
In order to become a Product Manager, you must have relevant skills, experience, and education. Below are some great ways to start a career in Product Management:
- Gain experience within a company and work your way up to the role over time.
- Study an MBA or equivalent degree.
- Learn the necessary skills from mentorships and online courses.
If you don’t have a relevant educational background, investing in training and gaining work experience will help you reach your goals in either product management or program management.
To learn more about Product Management read some of our other blog posts on the subject.
What is a Program Manager?
A Program Manager is a Project Management professional whose job is to oversee and coordinate various products, projects, and other initiatives that require strategic planning.
What does a Program Manager do?
To understand the role of a Program Manager, we must first be clear about the term "program". In an organization, a program refers to a group of related projects that work in unison to fulfil a business strategy. These programs may include launching a product, opening up a new location, or implementing a new sales process.
The Program Manager is responsible for understanding the high-level business goal and directing a team of Project Managers to ensure its successful completion.
What Skills Are Needed to Become a Program Manager?
To be a successful Program Manager, you need to have the following skills:
- Conflict Resolution - A Program Manager must be able to understand different points of view and propose compromise among teams and individuals.
- Focus - A Program Manager must follow a simple mantra:
"My job is to deliver business benefit."
All informed decisions need to be made with this in mind.
- Risk Management - A Program Manager must be able to foresee potential risks and develop contingency plans for worst-case scenarios.
- Leadership - A Program Manager has overall responsibility for the completion of programs within a company. Therefore, they must be able to effectively motivate and gain respect from team members.
Other skills required to become a Program Manager include people management, product management, product development, understanding the customer, pricing, planning, competitive analysis, requirements analysis, sales planning, inventory control, financial planning, and strategy development.
What Are The Job Responsibilities of a Program Manager?
Responsibilities of a Program Manager include:
- Organizing programs and activities according to the business goals
- Developing new programs to support the strategic direction of the organization
- Creating goals for the organization
- Developing budgets and managing finances
- Evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of a program
- Writing program funding proposals
- Managing and handling a team of managers
- Making sure everyone stays motivated and meets deadlines
- Meeting and updating stakeholders
- Analyzing risks related to programs
- Working on creating strategies
How to Become a Program Manager
To become a Program Manager, you must have a bachelor's degree in a related subject. Having an MBA or equivalent degree is always an added advantage.
Bear in mind, the skillset required may vary from firm to firm. A person in a junior position can eventually be promoted to become a Program Manager as they gain experience within the company.
Next Steps to Start Your Career
Some companies may have slightly varying definitions of a Program Manager and Product Manager. However, planning and developing high-level strategies remain at the core of these roles.
If you’re keen to pursue a career in product or program management, we recommend gaining as much experience as you can in these roles. Enroll in an MBA, join a company in a more junior position, or even study from home. Our Product Management course will teach you everything you need to get started in your new career.