The interrelations between product and project management
This series continues with the interrelations between product and project management. Products are created through projects. It may start with a sketch or design of the product, continue with a prototype of the product to the delivery of a ready to go product. Whilst products of a project could be a physical object, a service or just information, in this blogpost the focus is on physical products as we can buy them as consumers or business customers. Project management is performed through project management processes, coordinating product and support processes. ISO 21500 emphasizes that product processes result in the specification and/or provision of a particular product, which vary depending on the particular project deliverable.
Product management is an organisational 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. The starting point of product management could be a product strategy, derived from the organisation´s overall strategy, followed by an analysis of customers´ needs and business opportunities, own strengths and weaknesses compared to the ones´ of competitors, e.g. by utilizing the method of “Value Proposition Design”. Product requirements need to be defined, including the product features, variants and derivates, the pricing together with a business case and a feasibility study. Before continuing the deliberations, the top management needs to take tough decisions whether or not to include the product into the product portfolio. Like in project management, the product portfolio management decides upon initiation of activities for a product, depending on a positive result of the preparations and evaluations and the availability of resources.
Product-oriented organisations need to synchronize product portfolio and project portfolio management. Projects may be performed in the early stages of a product lifecycle, for example doing the analysis, a feasibility study or sketching first ideas. However, before continuing to work on a product, top management needs to take tough decisions, whether to start a project for delivering a product or stop the product already at an early stage of its creation.
Therefore, project managers need to understand the basic concepts of product management, the product lifecycle and the stages a product is typically going through. They need to understand who is responsible for definition, evaluation, design, production and the management of the product across its lifecycle. A project intended to bringing a product into production will finish after ramp-up of the product to the maximum production numbers. During the lifetime of a product after it has been manufactured, it may undergo changes, facelifts, new releases or iterations, until it will be decommissioned or recycled. This could all be a project, depending on size, complexity or definition of the organisation. In essence, there can be several project lifecycles within a product lifecycle. The complex a product (or even a system) is, the more projects it may encompass from initiation to its end.