How a Program Manager, Product Manager, and Project Manager Collaborate

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How a Program Manager, Product Manager, and Project Manager Collaborate

The program, project, and product manager have different roles, but all three share the common goal of successfully completing a project.

· Agile Zone ·
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There are so many different roles in the project development, and it is so easy to get lost in their concepts and responsibilities. 

In our article, we consider three main positions in IT industry: the product manager, the project manager, and the program manager. All these specialists are the key players in project development, so it is important to differentiate their professional hues.

The Definitions of Each Role

So, let’s begin to dive into the analysis of concepts of these professions. But before we would like to draw your attention to one little detail. Despite the fact that we have combined these three management leaders in one article material, they are all completely different by their nature.

The Product Manager

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This expert is totally responsible for the product’s lifecycle: his work starts with the product idea formation and ends with…actually, a typical product manager’s work has no end. After the product development he continues to take care of his creation at least for one year.

A product manager works on the product image, develops the most successful plan in the financial and marketing directions. He knows what the user wants and what the development team is able to do, and combines it into the highest-quality implementation.

The Project Manager

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This role requires an efficient person in the project development process. He puts his soul into the management and careful control over the project development. It is in his interest not only to deliver the finished project to the customer timely but also to create the most comfortable working conditions for all specialists involved in the process.

A real project manager is considered to be a liaison between the development team and the project customer. He wants to be sure that all the wishes of the customer will be understood and fulfilled (or replaced by similar ones in case of any specific technological solution) by the working team without any critical problems.

The Program Manager

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Here it is necessary to make it clear the name of this position. Such an expert is responsible for managing several projects, related to one similar theme or direction. They all represent a certain program that should be controlled.

The practices of a program manager are quite convenient in large companies or in companies with a specific activity (for example, outsourcing interaction). It allows the program manager to combine identical or very similar works into a project management portfolio and conduct a proper and uniform project administration.

How All Three Work TogetherImage title

Since we have already learned what each of these experts is responsible for, we then come across a logical question: may their duties and functions intersect and during work? Yes, it is so in certain cases, when all three specialists are involved in work on one project or one program, and now we will consider their cooperation more in detail.

Let’s imagine an ordinary development process, where we can see the following cooperation models:

Project Manager and Product Manager

The main person who is a real executive manager is, of course, the project manager. It is on his account that each of the involved specialists knows about the current state of work, the terms of the project and the required resources.

The project manager, in his turn, has strong cooperation with the product manager, who works on the project’s personification and makes it as realistic and demanding as possible. Both of these specialists lead the project to its most successful completion — this is their common business goal. They also discuss the most suitable options for technical solutions of the project, minimize the number of development costs, and keep in constant communication with the customer. Their collaboration promises a good outcome for the project and the future product.

2. Program Manager vs. Product Manager and Project Manager

As we mentioned before, the product manager and project manager are like a unified whole in the project development process. So it is normal to take them both in comparison with the functions of a program manager.

When a company has a plenty of projects to work with, and some of them are supposed to be of the same type, it is time to involve a program manager in the performance of work. It is incorrect to think that there are not project managers for every project that is related to any program. In fact, the program manager coordinates the work of a group of the projects and works closely with project managers, that manage every particular project.

Then a program manager has a constant conversation with the product manager with a view to the discussion of the required efforts and resources for the project. They decide what is the best financial and technological variant within a matter of the present project. Therefore, such a triple alliance makes the whole development process more consistent and logically moderate.

Workplace Tools for These Managers

As it is obvious, our today’s world makes us use digital tools practically for any work. And professions like product/project/program managers are no exception. However, every specialist has his own preferences.

For example, an ordinary project manager’s favorite tool is Jira. This is a substantial system that allows team members to track their project development activity in accordance with current sprints, see the tasks in the backlog page, get prepared for releases and other project stages.

Product managers appreciate comfort boards and tasks operating. One of such product-like tools is Hygger: it contains many helpful abilities like roadmaps, prioritization matrices (the famous Eisenhower’s system) and other useful features.

What is about the program manager’s preferred tool, it is one of the most cross-functional platforms called Asana. Here they can manage their programs of projects in a proper way, monitor the current activities, receive and send timely feedbacks and exchange corporative messages.


To sum up all the above, we can draw some conclusions:

  • The project manager cares about how the development process is going and what the real state of the project is.

  • The product manager works on the final idea of the product and how the user will perceive it.

  • A program manager takes the reins of the management of the whole group of the projects.

Now it becomes possible to say that all these specialists execute different tasks but all of them want the project to be developed properly and to achieve all the relevant business goals in general.

We would be glad to hear about your personal experience working as one of these specialists. How did your mutual collaborative go? What difficulties or some points of interest have you mentioned? Write it to us in the comments of the article!

agile, collaboration, cooperation, product managers, program manager, project managers, tools

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