Program Manager vs Product Manager: All You Need To Know In 10 Easy Points


If you are not sure about the program manager vs product manager difference, trust me that you are not alone. Both the roles involve management and sound similar; however, they both have some distinct roles and responsibilities.

The functions and the responsibilities of both these roles are intertwined and integrated. These are synonymous in any organization. Both the roles are related to the product but with some differences.

In simple terms, product management is the practice that drives strategic business development through continuous improvement, innovation, and support. Product managers are executives in an organization who are responsible for one or more product offerings and play a crucial role right from the product conception to its final marketing.

The program management role is classifying, coordinating, and analyzing the interdependency among the products. They understand the projects and the vital elements that function in a company. The program manager will have a lateral view of the organization. They focus on an individual, organizational component that drives product development, design, and marketing.

Let us now delve into the details of both the roles and then analyze their differences.

  1. What is a product manager?
  2. What does a product manager do?
  3. Product manager skills
  4. Product manager job responsibilities
  5. How to become a product manager?
  6. What is a program manager?
  7. What does a program manager do?
  8. Program manager skills
  9. Program manager job responsibilities
  10. How to become a program manager?

1) What is a product manager?

A product manager decides the kinds of products that need to be built and what exactly justifies them. They are responsible for the success and the failure of any new product that the organization plans to launch. The product manager has leadership skills and is an expert at communication that is needed to lead an organization and take some strategic and effective decisions for the company. They manage and supervise the complete lifecycle of the product.

These involve prioritizing and identifying the products and the requirements of the consumer. They also establish the vision of the product. To have smooth planning and product execution, the product manager will work closely with the other teams in the organization. This includes sales, design, engineering, customer support, and marketing. They also have to ensure that the product’s vision is aligned well with the overall business goals and strategy.

2) What does a product manager do?

The product managers, as well as the program managers, need to analyze the data that they have gathered and be able to come up with a useful strategic direction for it. They aim to launch a product successfully. They need to make sure that the company follows a profitable approach, and for this, the product manager will do extensive market research that lets him understand the market opportunities and the requirements of the consumer.

The product manager is also responsible for keeping track of the availability of technical and financial resources. After they complete the assessment and the research phase, they communicate their strategies with the decision-makers and the company’s stakeholders.

After they get the approval, the product manager will transform the strategy and put it into a workable plan. This is to ensure that the team members understand what their responsibilities are.

The product managers strategize to:

  • Align, develop and execute the product strategy with the vision of the company
  • Create roadmaps and timelines for the process development of the product
  • Have a product positioning strategy that is effective
  • Gather and analyze the customers’ and stakeholders’ feedback. They also work with the cross-functional team to design the products as per the required features.
  • Identify the growth areas and create the product line’s roadmap that boosts its adoption in the market.
  • Make some creative recommendations to expand the product base of the company.
  • Supervise all the stages of the product right from its conception to its launch

3) Product manager skills

To be a product manager one needs to have the right blend of hard and soft skills. Here are the qualities that a successful product manager should have.

  • Understanding of the process and its development. The product manager should have a proper understanding of the product development process and framework. They should be able to understand the fine details of the process and the team dynamics that they are going to work with
  • They must be able to comprehend the finances of the company. They should create a roadmap that forecasts the expenditure and can account for each development process aspect.
  • The product manager should be efficient in prioritizing varied tasks. They should be aware of the milestones and should be able to take a stand when needed. They need to access how each feature will impact the product and find solutions for every issue.
  • The product manager should have good communication skills. This is the most important soft skill that a product manager should possess. They should be able to communicate with the stakeholders, consumers, and every team member.
  • The other skills that the product manager should have are strong problem-solving skills and good work ethics. They should have good communication skills and should be able to work with varied teams in an organization. They should also be dedicated and enthusiastic about achieving their goals.

4) Product manager job responsibilities

Here are the responsibilities of a product manager in an organization:

  • Determine what the customer needs are
  • Review any new product idea
  • Assess what the market competition is
  • Work with the sales team to develop innovative strategies.
  • Create business goals and forecast sales
  • Create an analysis report for the performance of the product in the market
  • Determine what the product pricing is which is done through market research
  • Review the sales and the production cost
  • Document the high-level requirements
  • Provide an insight into the stakeholders on the product and the market
  • Manage the profitability of the product and its success commercially
  • Convert the business strategy into a product strategy
  • Maintain the product management staff through recruitment and training
  • Access the performance of the team that is associated with the product
  • Complete the requirements of operation by scheduling and then assigning employees

5) How to become a product manager?

To be a product manager, you should have the necessary experience, skills, and education. Here are some ways to kick start your product manager career:

  • Get experience in a company and then work your way up the career ladder.
  • Study MBA or get an equivalent degree
  • Learn the skills of mentorship
  • If you do not have the relevant background, you should invest in the training programs to gain experience. This will let you enter into the product manager role in the organization.

6) What is a program manager?

Now let us understand what the roles and responsibilities of a program manager are. A program manager is a professional whose main role is to oversee and coordinate various projects, products, and other initiatives that need strategic planning. The job role of the program manager will depend on the industry. They are usually involved in designing, upgrading, and coordinating with the company’s internal and external programs. Their main task is to design such programs and then to develop them so that the program is synced well with the organizations’ visions and goals.

The program managers have to focus on the business goals, and they do this by using the correct management tools. The program manager will also decide how and when the company should launch a new product. They are responsible for managing various portfolios of the project, and they ensure that the products are delivered timely as per the varied programs.

7) What does a program manager do?

To understand the role of a program manager, it is important to know what the term program means. A program is a group of related projects and works together to fulfil any business strategy. These programs may involve launching a new product, implementing a sales process, or opening a new location. Program managers understand the high-end business goals and direct the product managers to ensure that the goals are met.

Here is what the program manager does.

  • Expand the program offering and improves the existing program quality
  • Develops and implements strategies for the team and ensures there is a risk mitigation plan in place
  • Analyze what the possible risks are with a program
  • Work with the HR team to manage the resources and staff.
  • Manage the reports and budgets on how to allocate funds for varied programs
  • Report on the performance of the program to the executive directors and team
  • Liaise with the customer support and marketing team to promote the program
  • Develop the industry partners to identify opportunities for the programs continual improvement

8) Program manager skills

To succeed as a program manager, you need to possess some basic skills.

  • A program manager should be able to resolve conflicts by understanding the viewpoints of his team members. They should be able to come up with a compromise on viewpoints. 
  • The program manager should be focused on being able to deliver benefits to the business. This is something that should be in their minds at all times.
  • They should be good at risk management and should be able to see if there are any potential risks. They should be able to develop a contingency plan to deal with the worst-case scenario.
  • A program manager should have strong leadership skills so that he takes over the responsibility to complete the program within timelines. They should be able to motivate their team members.
  • Product management, people management, product development, and understanding customer pricing requirements, analyzing, competitive analysis, and sales planning are the other key skills that any program manager should possess.

9) Program manager job responsibilities

Here are the responsibilities of a program manager in an organization:

  • Organize activities and programs as per the goals of the business
  • Develop new programs and support the strategic business direction
  • Create organizational goals
  • Develop a budget and manage finances
  • Evaluate the strength and weakness of the program
  • Write the financial proposal for a program.
  • Manage and handle the team managers
  • Ensure to keep the team motivated to meet deadlines
  • Meet and update the stakeholders
  • Analyze the risks that are related to the program
  • Work on creating various strategies

10) How to become a program manager?

To pursue a career as a program manager, you should complete your bachelor’s degree in a subject related to this field. It is beneficial to have an MBA or any equivalent degree, which is an added advantage.

The skillset that you may need will differ from one company to another. It takes experience to jump up the ladder as a program manager.


The industry and the business type are what define the program management and product management roles. The main program manager vs product manager difference is that the program manager is more into the strategic level responsibility. The project manager is mainly looking at the practical aspects of things.

The product manager focuses on the development, design, and production of the product offerings. The program manager guides the product manager to ensure effective implementation of the plans of product development.

The product manager is concerned with the success and the failure of the market. They ask questions as to why should the product be built in a specific way and who the target market is. They also need to know the optimal product pricing and the functions and the features that have to be prioritized.

The product manager looks at the specifics, whereas the program manager will have a wide organizational view and take a comprehensive decision on the business initiative. The program manager is concerned with the questions on how and when. They deal with how to utilize human resources and time to conduct pre-launch training. They need to focus on the budget that should be allocated to the initiative and what should the marketing department start to work on creating collateral.

Both of these profiles form a pair to ensure the long term success of a company. They are a combined equation that lets the company make a proper project management plan. The job profiles allow the company to invest in adequate resources, time, and efforts to design effective program management and a product management strategy. They together make tangible progress and also let the company gain a competitive advantage in the market.

Interested to learn all about Product Management from the best minds in the industry? Check out our Product Management Course. This 6-month-long program takes place online through live instructor-led sessions. It is the only program in India that offers the ‘Bring Your Own Product (BYOP)’ feature so that learners can build their product idea into a full-blown product, and go through an entire Product Development lifecycle.

Not only this, but this is the only program in India with a curriculum that conforms to the 5i Framework. Post completion, learners receive a joint certification from the Indian Institute of Management, Indore, and Jigsaw Academy. 

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