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Product Development vs. Product Management: What’s the Difference?

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Interested in learning the difference between product development and product management? Well, you’re in the right place!

Product development and product management may seem to be similar concepts, but in reality, they’re quite different. It won’t be wrong to say that they are like a cup and teapot, as both have their own distinct functions. However, despite the differences, they are incomplete without each other.

In this article, we aim to examine various factors associated with these terms that, include what they are and how they differ from each other, along with a few other things as well. 

So, let’s get started. 


What is Product Development?

The complete process of product development comprises of getting an idea from a mere concept to a complete product out in the market. 

A product development team includes experts that have experience in various things, such as engineering and design. 

Other than expert developers, the team may also have creative designers, and experienced quality assurance testers – all working in collaboration to come up with a top-notch product. 

The development teams have a set of requirements, and they must fashion those requirements into a working product. You should know that it is essential for the product to meet the quality standards of the organization, as client satisfaction is of utmost importance.  


What is Product Management?

From strategic planning to producing to marketing, product management happens to be a strategic role that comprises of everything. However, the primary role stays the same; bringing products to life. 

A product management team varies from organization to organization as some companies may have a single product manager, whereas others may have cross-function product management teams. 

To put it simply, the product manager or the product management team does customer and market research, transforms the customer needs into requirements and ensures that those requirements are fulfilled by the development team. 


How Does Product Development Differ from Product Management?

Since there is a great overlap between the two, product development and product management, the difference between them often becomes confusing for many individuals. However, there is a line between the two that separates them from each other. 

Starting off with the basic difference, the role of the product manager is to conduct research and come up with a roadmap to reach the ultimate destination. It is the duty of a product manager to fill in the gaps and to decide if any changes are necessary during the execution of the roadmap plan. 

On the flip side, the product development team is responsible to follow the roadmap provided by the product manager and get everything done. 

To steer clear of confusion, the job of the product manager is not to build the product, but to maintain a high-level product roadmap. 


How Does The Product Development Process Work?

Product development can turn out to be an exciting, yet difficult endeavor. The product development cycle of taking a product from an initial concept to the final launch breaks down into six steps. 

So, let’s dive in. 

Idea Generation

Idea generation is the first step of the product development process. The product manager is responsible for analyzing the needs of customers, doing market research, and ultimately brainstorming product concepts. 

There are several factors are addressed when initiating a new product concept. These include the target market, existing product portfolio, general idea of the product functionality, and the strengths and weaknesses of your product. 

However, to validate a product concept, it is best to consider documenting the ideas in the form of a business case, as it will allow the team members to have a clear understanding. 

Product Definition

Once they complete the business case and discuss the target market along with the product functionality, it’s time to move on to the next phase, which would be defining the product. 

This step consists of defining the specifics that include business analysis, value proposition, success metrics, and finally, the marketing strategy developed by the marketing team. 

After defining all these ideas, building a minimum viable product (MVP) with initial prototyping can commence. 


As you move to the prototyping phase, the product development team will research and document the product by creating an even more detailed business development plan. The early-stage prototypes may be a simple drawing or a complex computer-aided design. 

The primary aim of the prototypes would be to help you identify potential risk areas before the creation of the final product. You will have to work on specifics such as feasibility analysis, market risk research, development strategy, and MVP. 

Initial Design

​​At this stage, the stakeholders of the project work in collaboration to make a mockup of the product in relevance to the MVP prototype. It is important to keep the target audience in mind while creating the design. 

However, at the same time, it is vital to know that a successful design may take multiple iterations to get right and can also involve getting in touch with the distributors to source necessary materials. 

If the customer feedback received is not positive, and customer needs aren’t fulfilled, alterations and revisions to the design will need to occur. 

Validation and Testing

Upon completion of the initial design, validation and testing need to occur. This will ensure that every part of the product is working effectively before its release to the public. 

Concept testing and concept development, along with front-end testing and market testing, are some of the strategies that will help ensure the quality of the product.


When the testing phase is over, it will be time for the product launch and commercialization. At this time, finalizing the design and testing the quality of the marketing and development strategy becomes a priority. You need to be confident in the final iteration and be ready for the product launch. 

To make commercialization a success, it is essential that you work on eCommerce implementation and product development and that the sales team is good at their job. 


How Does The Product Management Process Work?

Even though the product management cycle may be different depending on the project that you work on, most follow the 7-step format listed below.  

1. Idea Generation

It is understandable that coming up with the product right after you get a brilliant product idea is tempting. However, the tricky part here is that there is a chance that the idea may already exist. 

Therefore, as much as it is important to brainstorm a list of product ideas, it is also essential to research and have a bigger picture of the market, as it will save you time later. 

2. Idea Screening

When you have a list of product ideas in your hand, it would be time to move forward and define technical specifications. The first thing would be to select the top 3 ideas and use SWOT analysis to further filter out the ideas that are most powerful and realistic. 

The basic idea behind this step is to check the feasibility of the idea and whether it makes sense to start working on it or not. 

3. User and Market Research

You might not know this, but the primary reason behind any product failing is the absence of a market need for that product. Therefore, figuring out the white space by exploring the existing products and existing market players holds special importance. 

While researching the market, you need to evaluate the size of the target market, the competitors and their weaknesses, as well as the scope for improvement. 

However, as far as user research goes, you need to know the needs and desires of the users. 

4. Strategy Development

Even though customer development and market research shape the vision of the product, development of the right strategy helps you meet that vision. 

A product roadmap happens to be the best way to break the product strategy into steps of execution. Note that it is vital for the product roadmap to have business objectives and goals, product areas, order of priorities, product features, and key performance indicators (KPIs). 

5. Product Creation

It is not mandatory to launch the product as right as rain. You should know that perfect doesn’t equal effectiveness and minor failures are quite possible, and excusable as well. 

Therefore, at this stage, you need to focus on the value that your product provides and whether it has the features needed by the client or not. 

6. Testing and Feedback Collection

After receiving the MVP, it is essential to set up a feedback collection mechanism. Start by checking how the user interacts with your product and capture the user feedback to identify any possible improvements. 

In fact, a product management insights report found that 60% of the product managers say that the best ideas tend to come directly from the customers. 

Hence, note that the feedback collection goes in parallel with the product development, and you should not wait until the implementation to take it into consideration. 

7. Product Improvement

The product management process is not the endpoint, rather, at this stage, your business needs to be sustained. The focus shifts to efficiency and optimization again.

Other than that, you should also look for ways of scaling, improving operations and maintaining business outcomes and minimizing costs. 


How Do Product Developers and Product Managers Work Together?

To come up with a high quality product that meets all the requirements of the user, it is important for the product developers and product managers to work together efficiently. 

Product managers are responsible for coming up with work guidelines along with a roadmap that is to be followed by the product developers. Other than that, effective communication is established throughout the project to deal with certain issues.


Which Career Path Earns More?

In a balanced market, it can be said that senior product developers may get paid a little more than product managers. But usually, the average salary of a product manager is significantly more than the average salary of a product developer. 

With that, it is also important to know that product managers are said to have an increased chance to jump to a director or vice president role which will result in a better salary growth in the long term. 


How To Become a Product Developer?

Even though getting a bachelor’s degree and completing an internship would make you qualified as a product developer, getting a master’s degree may enhance your skill further and help you get a better and high-paying job. 

However, you should know that becoming a product developer requires skills like creative thinking, problem solving, interpersonal communication, market research and being able to work in a team.


How To Become a Product Manager?

To become a product manager, you need to start by choosing a career path and getting specialized training. Moving forward, you should learn the essentials regarding your field and attain foundational knowledge by asking questions from fellow managers in the industry. 

For that, you can check out certifications like product management certification and technical product management certification. Once done, you should create a unique resume and come up with an elevator pitch before going for the interview. 

As for the skill-set required in product management, you would be required to have strong communication and research skills along with the right knowledge for analysis and technical fieldwork. 

Mostly, individuals transition to product managers after doing jobs as engineers and developers. 


Summing Up 

Whatever career path you end up choosing, you should weigh your options before making the final decision. Other than that, you should also know your interests before getting into a field as it increases your chance of excelling in it. 

Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter
Josh Fechter is the co-founder of Product HQ, founder of Technical Writer HQ, and founder and head of product of Squibler. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.