There a misinformed notions floating around the agile community that products and better than projects. That some how - unspecified and unsubstantiated as usual - that projects are undesirable and focusing on products and their value - again unspecified how to measure that value and unsubstantiated that value measurement isn't what projects do as well.
A Project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. There is a definition (possibly emerging) of what needs to be delivered and a target date (with a probabilistic confidence) when it needs to be delivered. A project is unique in that it is not a routine operation (Server Ops is not a project, it's operations), A Project is a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a stated goal. The project team often includes people who don’t usually work together – sometimes from different organizations and across multiple geographies. Projects for example:
- Develop software for improved business process
- Construct of a building or bridge
- Provide relief effort after a natural disaster
- Expand of sales into a new geographic market
Project management is the application of the knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to the Project's activities to meet the project requirements.
A Product is anything that can be offered to a market to solve a problem or satisfy a want or need. It has a life cycle with multiple stages. A product is conceived, developed, introduced and managed in the market, and retired when the need for it diminishes. A product can only be developed within the context of a project, and multiple projects can occur within a product’s life cycle.
- Product Management is an organizational lifecycle function within a company dealing with the planning, forecasting, and production, or marketing of a product or products at all stages of the product lifecycle.†
There are multiple roles in the Product development
- The Product Manager is responsible for setting the product strategy. Product Mangers own
- The Strategy for Success of the Product
- The Go-To-Market activities
- Usually the P&L for the Product
- The Project Manager is less concerned about the Product's business and more concerned about how to manage the activities needed to cause the Product to appear. The Project Manager takes product initiatives and features to develop a timeline based on any potential constraints related to resources, risks, or scope. Project Managers own the answsers to:
- What resources are needed?
- What is going to be the final cost of this product? (With that information, the Product Manager can determine the profitability of the Product)
- When will the project get delivered?
- Who is going to do what and When?
- What risks will be encountered and how will this be mitigated?
Product managers and project managers work closely together in high-performance organizations. And both work with the broader product team and executive leaders.
When I hear ...
Project: laced with untested assumptions, based on industrial thinking. Product: cont. tests assumptions, based on lean/agile good practice.
I'm breath taken at the serious lack of understanding of the roles, principles, processes, procedures, and governance frameworks for spending other peoples money to produce products.
A simple summary. A Product is a entity provided to a user. It can be anything: a physical product that you hold in your hands, a software application, or a service that you are delivering. A Project is the series of activities to produce the defined outcome that turns into theProduct.
† I used to work in the Product Lifecycle Management business. PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems.