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From Project to Product – Sharing the Wisdom

Project Managers and Product Managers play key roles within a tech company, and often, people on this career path choose to progress from one role to the other.

The product manager sets the vision for the product that needs to be built, gathers requirements, and prioritises them, while the project manager acts upon this vision and makes sure that it is executed on time and on budget.

To iron out the differences, we caught up with Jonny Savill, Product Owner at Webgains (previously Project Manager) to give you some insight – if you are considering the change from project to product or are planning on adding an expert to your team – you can find some first-hand perception right here.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what has been your career journey so far, leading you to where you are right now?

Jonny Savill: I started agency-side as an Account Manager working on a number of large FMCG clients. It was great fun and gave me the opportunity to work across many marketing channels; websites, social, content, DM, eCRM, display as well as branding and packaging.

I then moved into Project Management (agency-side) where I focussed on the delivery of technical projects for a large housebuilder client. This involved the usual scoping, estimating, planning and delivering projects to timelines and budget (rarely the case!).

After a friend of mine had made the switch from project to product, and the agency I worked for hired a Head of Product, I discovered what the role was all about and I was hooked. I then spent time learning everything I could about product and how I could bring elements of product thinking into my role whilst looking out for the perfect opportunity.

I’m now a Product Owner at Webgains, working within an awesome product team as we make our affiliate marketing platform the best it can be.

ADLIB: From your perspective, can you outline the key differences between project management and product management?

Jonny Savill: A Project Manager is very much focussed on the output of a project which has a clearly defined beginning and end. E.g. Create a form on the website to capture email addresses for our mailing list.

Project Managers are usually more internal-facing; improving processes, driving efficiencies and answering the questions how and when?

A Product Manager is focussed on outcomes and constantly iterating to achieve those outcomes. E.g. Increase mailing list email capture by 20% WoW.

Product Managers are usually more external-facing; speaking to customers, researching competitors and answering the questions what and why?

ADLIB: What was your main reason for making the switch from project to product?

Jonny Savill: I really wanted to start speaking to end-users and customers first hand and really understand their problems before deciding on a solution to build, rather than building a solution that we hope will work for our users.

To me, the ethos of product is what really resonated with me and I wanted to be a part of it.

ADLIB: What are the elements of your role that you enjoy the most?

Jonny Savill: Once we’ve defined the user problem that we want to tackle, I really love the next step of defining potential solutions to validate. There’s a lot of creative thinking involved by the team to find testable solutions that will hopefully bring us closer to our goal.

ADLIB: For those who are looking to get into product management from project, what are your 3 top tips?

Jonny Savill:

1) Get involved in the product community! Start attending the monthly ProductTank meetups where you can meet others who love product and make some connections. We’d also love to see you at our monthly Product Lunch Club where we help, encourage and support each other: https://www.meetup.com/Product-Lunch-Club-Bristol/

2) Read as much as you can on the subject. Some of my favourites are Product Mastery: From Good to Great Product Ownership by Geoff Watts and Escaping the build trap by Melissa Perri.

3) Listen to as much as you can. There are a number of great podcasts that have some amazing guests from the world of product. I’m subscribed to The Product Experience & This is Product Management.

Then I’d take everything you learn from the above and try out some of the ideas in your current role.

ADLIB: For scale-ups and businesses in growth mode, can you share some top considerations when adding a product manager to their team?

Jonny Savill: Adding a product manager to the team won’t always result in fancy, shiny new features that will make you the talk of the town. It may be that during a growth period the most valuable thing to your end-users or customer base is maintaining the current level of service.

This is what the product role is there for; to identify what will be of most value for the product whilst ensuring alignment with the business strategy.

Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom!