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Academy Xi Blog

Product Management versus Project Management

By Academy Xi

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It’s not uncommon for confusion to arise when it comes to Product and Project Management. Both disciplines are often abbreviated to ‘PM’, they share a range of common skills and there is a crossover between their functions, however, the responsibilities are very different. 

Let’s wade in and try to establish some clarity.

At a glance:

  • The fundamental difference
  • What is product management & what does a Product Manager do?
  • What is project management & what does a Project Manager do?
  • So, what do these roles have in common?
  • Agile Scrum Methodology – at a glance
  • Top picks for software
  • Are Product Managers and Project Managers in-demand?
  • How much can you earn as a Product Manager or Project Manager?
  • How can I become a Product Manager or Project Manager?

The fundamental difference 

Essentially product managers manage products, project managers manage projects.

Where one is high level and strategy focused, the other is a driver of specific tasks.

  • Product Managers define high level goals and objectives and then create a comprehensive strategy.
  • Project Managers oversee the resourcing and scheduling of the approved strategy to enable the elements to ‘get done’. 

There’s a bit more to it than this top line summary of difference, so let’s dig into the details.

What is Product Management & what does a Product Manager do? 

The organisational function responsible for a product’s overall success is known as Product Management.

Product Managers are at the intersection of all individuals, teams and stakeholders involved in what is known as the ‘lifecycle’ of a product. 

Product Managers:

  • discover the challenges and needs of their customers via research
  • define a product vision, meeting the customer needs and reflecting business goals
  • ensure the product concept aligns with market needs to confirm viability 
  • create a comprehensive strategy to build solutions that satisfy all of these elements
  • continually improve on existing products using data-driven insights.

Each step from coming up with the idea and designing the strategy, through to delivering it to market and making ongoing improvements is driven by the Product Manager. They devise and maintain the product roadmap to align all involved in the journey – it is a highly collaborative role. The key to this gig is always being a passionate advocate for the customer – their needs must be at the heart of the entire process. 

What is Project Management & what does a Project manager do?

Where Product Management is functioning on a strategic level, Project Management is all about organising and guiding the completion of specific tasks that exist within the overarching strategy.

The role of the Project Manager doesn’t come into play until the strategy (as defined and created by the Product Manager) has been approved. 

Once off the starting blocks, the Project Manager is a vital element in ensuring the plan goes smoothly. They are responsible for: 

  • Scoping out each project element
  • Overall scheduling of these initiative timelines
  • Allocating resources across all projects (time, budget, staffing)
  • Being aware of any significant risks prior to project commencing
  • Executing the elements of the project plans
  • Monitoring and tracking the project process 
  • Regular communication to all relevant stakeholders about overall progress.

Key attributes of a great Project Manager include fantastic communication skills, time management prowess and strong leadership qualities. 

What do these roles have in common?

Product Manager in a meeting with colleague

It’s safe to say that well-tuned soft skills are a necessity for both Product and Project Managers. 

Most importantly, effective communication skills are required as they deal with a wide variety of stakeholders both in house and externally to the organisation they are supporting. 

Being adept at developing one-on-one relationships with team members, while simultaneously building team cohesion is quite a skill and hugely benefits both of these roles  – the focus being on creating a team culture that fosters open communication, respect and empathy. 

Skills of persuasion are also integral as they will often need to get ‘buy-in’ from teams and individuals that they do not directly manage. This can be quite a challenge when you’re needing people to deliver specifics to get the job done. 

Agile Scrum Methodology – at a glance

Agile Scrum Methodology is a popular project management system that takes a sprint-based approach, working to the goal of delivering the best possible outcome and value to all stakeholders. It is a system used by both Product and Project Managers alike.

  • What is Scrum?

A framework that enables effective collaboration among teams working together on complex projects or products. This approach can benefit any team working toward a common goal.

  • What is Agile?

A process that allows teams to more efficiently manage a project by breaking it down into several stages, with stakeholder feedback gathered to improve at each increment.

By working in two to four week ‘sprints’, stakeholder feedback is gathered and integrated into the next sprint, where appropriate. This enables the product or service to develop quickly and reflect the needs of the stakeholders, compared to other project management methods that build an entire product or service in only one stage – from beginning to delivery – which is slower and may not deliver the same business value.

Top picks for software

There are many software options on the market, with most being some version of an online collaborative app where anyone working on a project can see what they’re supposed to do and when and enable you to record progress on your assigned tasks. They give an overview of the project and can show if it’s on target to meet budget and timeline requirements.

Here are a few examples of specific software that is currently popular with both product and project managers in collaborating with teams and hitting deadlines. While there isn’t any Product Management specific software, there are features in Jira that are particularly suitable for Product Managers such as Advanced Roadmaps.

Product Management Tools logos: TeamGantt, Jira, Asana, Monday.com
  • Jira: Plan, track, release and report with this widely popular project product management software.
  • Asana: Track, manage and connect your projects across any team. This platform enables all stakeholders to discuss work in one place.
  • Monday.com: Plan, organise and track your team’s work in one place on this highly visual and intuitive platform.
  • TeamGantt: Project planning software that brings gantt charts online. You can plan, schedule and manage projects with this free software and invite clients and teams to collaborate.

Are Product and Project Managers in-demand?

In short, yes!

Overall, the global economy has become more project-oriented – this is largely due to digital transformation and the requirement for most industries to get online and have tech based solutions to meet market demands, lest they be left behind. 

Industries that were previously less project-oriented are now requiring digital services and products, particularly in health care (hello COVID) and professional services.

There is an increasing gap worldwide between employers’ needs for both skilled product and project managers and the availability of professionals to fill those positions.

Product Management positions are particularly challenging to fill due to the diverse skills and capabilities required and has one of the fastest growing skills gaps in Australia. (1)

When it comes to project management, the labor force is expected to grow 33 percent across 11 countries by 2027, with employers needing nearly 88 million individuals in project management roles worldwide.(2)

How much can you earn as a Product Manager or Project Manager?

Amongst the highest paid roles in tech across Australia and the United States (3), the current average Project and Product Manager salaries come in at $120,000 AUD (4) (5). Those with more experience in these roles can take home in excess of $150,000 a year. (4/5). 

How can I become a Product manager or Project Manager?

Getting the right training under your belt is a strong start to establishing your career as a Product or Project Manager. 

Ideally, you want to study a course which offers you as much practical experience as possible. Training which includes working on real-world projects is an added bonus, as you will be putting your new skills to the test on something that’s personally relevant to you or your business. 

Academy Xi offers industry focused courses in both Product Management and Project Management, with a focus on digital to ensure that you are job ready by graduation. Class sizes are small, socially engaged and guided by industry experts.

We offer the following courses in Product and Project Management: 

Check out the upcoming course intake dates for all of our online courses. 

I’ve managed a lot of traditional/ offline projects. Should I still upskill?

Without a doubt, gaining digital-specific project management skills is a great investment in your future. Academy Xi offers industry focused part-time, online courses to elevate your skills to the next level. Designed and taught by passionate industry experts, the training will empower you to stay ahead of the industry curve. Discover more by reading our blog post ‘5 reasons to invest in upskilling’

Product Management review at Academy Xi

Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Imogen Abandowitz

By Academy Xi

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With a background in International relations and languages, Imogen always knew she wanted to work in communications, with a people focus. Training in digital marketing has provided her with exactly that. 

Hi Imogen! Can you tell us about what you were doing before studying Digital Marketing at Xi?

Right before Xi I was working in the University space in business development. Prior to that, I studied my Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and Languages in Melbourne and worked in Community Development and Partnership Engagement.

What encouraged you to study Digital Marketing?

My previous degree was very general. I knew that I wanted to work in communications and I am passionate about content creation and imagery, but I was after a substantial training experience where I could walk away with specific knowledge and skills. Something distinct. Digital Marketing felt like the perfect fit.

Why did you choose Xi for your training?

I had spoken to a number of friends and colleagues who recommended the Digital Marketing Elevate course at Xi, so that definitely helped my decision. I also liked that it was all online so it was accessible. Compared to other training options it was also well priced. During the pandemic last year I had some extra time up my sleeve, so I registered!

How has studying Digital Marketing at Xi helped your career?

Since graduating I have started working for a travel and fundraising agency, Inspired Adventures, as their Campaign Manager. We take people on incredible trekking challenges around Australia while fundraising for causes they are passionate about. We work with charities with missions in Public Health, Environment and social change.

I really love my job and do my best in the role with all the charities we work with. It’s really meaningful work for me, to contribute to the success of their campaigns and fundraising goals. 

I do a lot of work with all of the charities across the campaign lifecycle, so digital marketing is certainly a part of that. I definitely think that the digital marketing training with Xi helped me to land the job. The training has given me the ability to provide strong recommendations and help them with their campaigns and overall marketing success.

Was there a training highlight for you?

For me the biggest highlight was developing the portfolio piece. I had a freelance client at the time, so I based my portfolio piece on that project. Originally I had set out to freelance and then thought to upskill with this training. It was great to have the support of the mentor and my classmates when I was starting out.

How did you find the online learning experience?

I was blown away by how the course was put together and loved the fortnightly catch ups with my group. There were about 12 of us from all over the country, regional areas and major cities. The course structure and delivery kept us all engaged with the topics we were covering each week and a lot of the resources were very comprehensive and super helpful. I liked the mixture of mediums used for course instruction – video content, written and live tutorials – it worked well. I also really enjoyed the quizzes and having break out rooms to discuss concepts with my classmates. 

Mark Knobel was my tutor and presenter and he was very helpful in explaining key concepts and guiding the direction of the course. He really helped keep us motivated, with everyone having different commitments outside of study that was super helpful.

Any plans to study further?

I would love to do more training in content creation – blogging, podcasts and user experience design all interest me. In the digital age we are living in, no matter which industry you work in, I believe marketing and effective communication are crucial.

Would you recommend training at Xi?

Definitely. The Digital Marketing training is an affordable, accessible and practical course that guides you through developing a project to showcase in a portfolio. It has helped me build confidence in business and innovative digital skills. 

I have a lot of friends who were generalists like me that I’ve recommended this training to. Having the digital marketing training is specific, applied knowledge that I really needed. I would certainly recommend studying with Xi.

Connect with Imogen on LinkedIn

Check out the amazing work of Inspired Adventures

Academy Xi Blog

Digital Transformation. It’s as much about your people as it is your tech.

By Academy Xi

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“By 2025, the average worker will need to learn 7 new digital skills.” (Source)

In terms of the way we work, the rate of change has undeniably sped up thanks to COVID. Where digital disruption was likely, it is now inevitable for most businesses. If 2020 gave us all a massive push toward digital transformation, 2021 is about continuing the forward momentum. 

The backdrop for learning and development has never been more dramatic. To capture the full potential of digital technologies, businesses are going to need to invest in the training and development of their people.

Keep reading for our take on:

  • How ‘digital imposter syndrome’ and a siloed workplace can hamper digital transformation efforts
  • Why incentivising ‘digital-first’ decision making will galvanise your digital transformation
  • What does successful digital upskilling and training look like
  • How to take your people on the digital transformation journey, step by step

 

Preparedness = people + tech

Most companies are now opting for a ‘digital-first’ mindset as they acknowledge the central role technology now plays to their success. What is a digital-first mindset? Simply put, it means recognising any new opportunity or problem is going to need to be solved as digitally as possible. When done right, it helps to increase efficiency, scale and find new ways to appeal to customers. However, these benefits fall flat when they are not paired with the right learning and development. As Forbes concisely stated, “digital-first business demands a people-first mindset”. Fostering a sustainable digital workforce trumps the implementation of any single technology.

A study from MIT concluded that businesses that invest in digital skills training for their people tend to outperform their competitors. They showed an average of 19% more growth and were 15% more profitable.

As core technologies become increasingly available, differentiation won’t come in the form of the technology itself. Instead, the key factor for success will be around the success of adoption. How well can your people adapt to take advantage of the new opportunities the technology affords. Unsurprisingly, this is all about upskilling for the individual within the broader context of learning and development for the organisation.

 

Taking your people on the Digital Transformation journey

As a leader, when you are planning for digital transformation, it is crucial to consider the people that are going to bring it to life. People make technology useful. If you have broad-scale, organisation-wide transformation in your plans, giving your people the right tools and mindsets to provide them with the confidence to enable its successful realisation.

  1. Demystify digital. It is often assumed that your people understand the people, systems and processes that make up your digital ecosystem. By laying out how the different parts of your digital business interrelate, you are training your people in an area that can provoke anxiety for many. 
  2. Help your people shed ‘digital imposter syndrome’. Like anything new, technology can be intimidating. To increase new technology adoption and confidence, it is going to take an investment in training and development. Without this, you run the risk of resistance and people finding workarounds. 
  3. Develop a shared language around digital. A shared, common language provides clarity around goals and ensures a common understanding. This is about laying a sound platform for your people to work and collaborate confidently in your ‘new normal’. This will also help drive new technology adoption and increase productivity.
  4. Encourage and incentivise ‘digital-first’ decision making. A digital-first company not only uses technology in innovative ways but also creates a culture, structure and processes to support broader digital uplift. Combine this with a culture of design-thinking and you’ve got a winning combination. Read how brands like Uber, AirBNB, Pepsi, and GE innovate using Design Thinking.
  5. Make tech not just the exclusive domain of your development and tech teams. What we’ve found is that when more people understand the why behind technological change, they are quicker to adopt it. Not everyone needs to be an expert. Even having a baseline level of knowledge can be helpful when needing to work with seemingly complex technology like software for example.
  6. Cultivate an agile talent pool. This is easier said than done but worthy of real, ongoing attention. The more agile your people are, the better your business can constantly reshape itself to address new market challenges, offer new products and services, and fend off competition. 
  7. Appreciate employee differences and provide support. Addressing employees’ differing workplace expectations based on their digital fluency can be extremely challenging. Gen Y and Baby Boomers are likely to find a ‘digital first’ mindset more of a stretch than Millennials and Gen Z. 
  8. Be prepared for a period of adjustment. When it comes to digital transformation, there is often a honeymoon period within organisations. Employees feel buoyed by the promise of a better way of doing things. This is often naturally followed by culture shock when people realize how much they don’t know, then adjustment, and then mastery. 

The benefits for those businesses that execute their digital transformation strategies are going to be profound. Namely, capture the potential of digital technologies and ensure their people are along for the journey. But to do this, continued interest and investment in training and development is required. To capitalize on the opportunity of digital, companies need to adopt a people-first approach to business.

 

Need help with digital transformation in your organisation?

Check out our suite of courses in disciplines such as Customer-Centricity, Data Capability, Digital Literacy and more. Download a course guide and contact us.

Need more proof that investing in your people is a strong strategy at any point along your digital transformation journey? Check out our latest blog “5 Reasons To Invest in Upskilling”.



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Academy Xi Blog

Student Spotlight: Grace Mantilla

By Academy Xi

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Interior designer turned visual merchandiser Grace Mantilla is carving a new career in digital marketing. A creative at heart, she’s now helping a non-profit build their brand and online presence. 

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Read our chat with her as she shares her story and journey in the digital marketing space.

 

Tell us about you Grace, your personal and professional career? How did you start? 

My first professional dream was to become an Interior Designer which I managed to achieve when I was living in the Philippines. When I migrated to Australia in 2010, I struggled getting in the same field. To gain work experience, I decided to apply for a role in retail. I became a sales associate and found myself getting naturally appointed to become the in-store Visual Merchandiser. I was blessed with a manager who recognised my skills and urged me to follow that path. Since then, I have been doing Visual Merchandising as a full-time role, as well as contracting individual projects as a freelancer.

What made you decide on upskilling?

I have always been a learner, a consistent student, as my friends would call me. I like to learn new things and challenge myself. Every time I feel that life gets boring, I entertain myself through education. Before the pandemic hit, I was already contemplating on upskilling and hoping to carve a new career path. When the world took a stand still in 2020, I took that as an opportunity to pick a course to study and enrol. I found myself getting immersed in Digital Marketing.

Why did you choose Xi and what made you choose your course?

I was initially interested in learning UX Design. I remember going to one of Academy Xi’s info nights in Sydney to dip my toe in the water. However, I found the learning curve steep, so I decided to switch to Digital Marketing. Plus, a friend of mine suggested it too. 

There were a lot of online courses offering Digital Marketing. I attended a few free intro courses with different organisations and read reviews about several institutions before deciding. I found myself genuinely interested in learning Strategies, Content and Social Media – three areas where I would like to focus my attention. 

To be honest, I cannot even remember why I chose Academy Xi. All I know is that it felt right and somehow the institution made me feel that I belong. I love how they have built a good community of learners and mentors.

The course was very extensive, and I learned more than I expected. It was exciting!

Tell us what you enjoyed most about the whole experience

I found myself looking forward to our Monday night sessions with my classmates and mentor. It was tough to understand the theories at first, but the activities and assessments helped in applying what we have learned so far. The part I enjoyed the most was  the team projects where we worked with real-life clients. I was excited to put my learnings into action! Whilst it was nerve wracking to speak and present to a client, it was rewarding at the same time. Those mini achievements meant so much to me and our team, as well as our mentor.

Were there any personal or professional obstacles that you had to overcome to complete your studies?

I was very blessed to have supportive family, friends, and teammates. Apart from a few concepts and theories that are harder to comprehend (I’m looking at you Programmatic Advertising and Finance Calculations), I feel all went well while I studied. Our mentor was approachable and always ready to give me a hand whenever I get stuck.

Tell us more about what you’re doing at the moment. 

While working part time, I am participating in Academy Xi’s Outcomes Program and hoping to land a role in Digital Marketing. I am starting to expand my network connections on LinkedIn and connect with like-minded people (If that is you, hit connect and send me a note! Here’s my LinkedIn profile!). Oh, and I do yoga daily. It is one of my new year’s resolutions to practice every day for a whole year. Wish me luck!

Has the content you have learnt been useful in your career? Could you give an example of how/where you used the knowledge learnt?

All the content that I have learnt is useful in building my career as a Digital Marketer. It has given me confidence to carve a new path and continue my journey. To keep myself busy and to continually apply my learnings, I am helping a non-profit start-up company build their website and brand awareness online through social media. If you are curious, follow Alt Coffee Beans on Instagram and Facebook to see our progress, although it is very much in its early stages. 

What are your plans for the future?

I am focusing most of my energy on landing a role in Digital Marketing and working on the non-profit project. Whilst my priority is to land a full-time role, I am also open to internships and expanding my experience in an office environment. Continually learning, getting better and sharpening my skills.

Any advice or tips you would like to pass on to our current and future students?

If I am to give any advice for future and current students, it would be to never give up. Yes, it is a cliché, yet one that is also true. Education is an achievement that cannot be taken from you and continuously learning is a gift. Every step you take towards your goal is worth it. Believe in yourself and soon you will find that you are a better person today than you were yesterday.  As for tips? Ask. Always!

Interested in any of our Digital Marketing courses? Whether you’re looking to upskill or completely change your career, we have the right course for you. Explore our Digital Marketing courses today.