What’s the difference between product manager, project manager and delivery manager?

Product manager, project manager and delivery manager each play a different role on a modern agile development team, but share a focus on achieving the outcome of the work.

Overlapping focus for product managers, project managers and delivery managers

What do product managers do?

Product managers focus on:

  • Vision – Understand the problems the product aims to solve, who has those problems, and why they are worth solving.
  • Strategy – Present how the product will solve the problem, and how solving the problems will achieve organisational objectives and meet user needs.
  • Alignment – Ensure the product vision and strategy are aligned with organisational objectives and stakeholders expectations, and that the team are aligned on the problem and the solution.
  • Prioritisation – Decide which the parts of the solution achieve the most for the organisation and the users.
  • Value – Understand the value users will get from using the product and where they might lack value they expect.
  • Cost – Balance the cost of building the product with the expected return on investment over the life time of the product.

What do project managers do?

Project managers focus on:

  • Planning – Coordinate all aspects of the project to meet the project goals.
  • Cost – Monitor and report on the cost of the project.
  • Time – Understand the schedule of work and monitor progress.
  • Governance – Ensure the project follows organisational control procedures.
  • Resourcing & dependencies – Monitor project resources and escalate dependencies.
  • Risks & issues – Monitor and resolve risks and issues that may impact the success of the project.

What do delivery managers do?

Delivery managers focus on:

  • Time – Decide how the development team best uses the time available.
  • Value – Understand what value the user should get from the product.
  • Scope – Control the scope of work that the development team work on the ensure the solution is appropriate and proportional to the problem.
  • Quality – Ensure the solution meets quality standards, e.g. accessibility and security.
  • Barriers – Remove barriers and impediments that slow down the development team.
  • Process – Implement, monitor and improve the processes the team uses to manage it’s work.

How do all three work together?

All three overlap with a focus on the outcome. All three roles succeed if the work achieves the outcome it set out to.

The Project Manager and Delivery Manager overlap their focus on time. For the Project Manager

The Product Manager and Project Manager overlap their focus on cost. This includes all investments into the project and product to ensure a positive return is going to be achieved.

The Delivery Manager and the Product Manager share a focus on the value that end user of the solution will receive. For the Delivery Manager, value is closely connected to scope of the work as defining and building the wrong product or feature risks reducing the value it provides.

Although each role has different aspects to focus on, good teams don’t work in isolation and support each other to succeed.