OPINION | A Software Product Vs Project

OPINION | A Software Product Vs Project

By Kannan Subbiah

OPINION | A Software Product Vs Project

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In short, a software Project is all about to execute a Statement of Work of an internal or external customer, where what customer required is right irrespective of what is ideal or what the end user would expect. Though some projects are scoped in such a way that certain aspects of non-functional requirements are left to the choice of the project teams.

Product development isn’t about implementing what the customer wanted to. In product development, the product manager owns and comes up with the product requirements. A large product or product suite, typically comprise of many projects and will evolve over time.

Unlike a project the product will be improved continuously without an end date based on feedback from end users and the product, team prioritizes what needs to be built next based on its perceived value for its target users or customers.

A project, on the other hand, is funded with specific goals, a business case in mind and with finite expected value and cost.

Here is an attempt to bring out the differences between a software project and product and such differences are categorized as below:

The Mindset:

Projects are many times started off with the main focus on to deliver on time, under budget, within the scope, and with a temporary team. All these constraints are set in stone and any deviation is viewed seriously, which may impact the course of the project depending on the methodology adopted. So, the mindset of the project team will be with a primary focus on the project parameters that determine the success of delivery and may not be the success of the product that the project may form part of. This is more so as the resources keep changing and the resources with no or little knowledge on the business domain may still deliver the project, but the product may be crappy.

Products tend to have a longer lifetime than projects and mostly built with more focus on the outcome instead of the output. Product teams are given the freedom and responsibility to think of a strategy they believe will result in the best product within a boundary of product framework. This leads to less waste and more creativity being introduced into the product development process, allowing room for embracing changes continuously.

Management:

The product roadmap is key to the success of the product and as such, the product manager shall align the product vision and strategy with that of the business. A Project Manager, on the other hand, is responsible for executing on a predefined objective.

A Project Manager's function is to create a plan, that the project will follow, and then to drive the people involved in the project to follow that plan with as little change as possible. If deviations from the planned execution are beyond an accepted threshold, the Project Manager must escalate and explain the situation to the stakeholders, who in turn will either accept the deviation or may choose to fail the project.

A product manager with the focus on constantly evaluating the viability of the product will typically follow an agile approach with shorter sprints of developments, so the product evolves incrementally, delivering values at every stage.

Motivation

With the primary focus of the project team being on delivering on time and within budget, the team does not have enough room to be creative enough. This brings down the motivation because the teams lose a sense of purpose and the autonomy in how to operate.

On the other hand, as typically, the resources stay longer with the product teams, they get aligned to the product strategy and the vision and thus they are given the freedom to bring in their thinking and creativity into the product, process, and methodology. The feedback and collaboration with stakeholders enable the right environment, where the resources reach a higher potential and operate autonomously, resulting in better problem solving, higher ownership of outcomes, and faster time to market.

Tools:

Product management software and project management software are entirely different tools — each designed for a different type of role, to help address different business needs. Product management software helps product managers organize, develop, and communicate the product strategy, while project management software helps project managers in track the execution and incidentally manage the resource allocation, risk and issue management.

Scope:

Product scope is defined as "The features and functions that characterize a product, service, or result". Whereas the project scope is defined as "The work performed to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions".

The Product Scope defines all the capabilities of a product from the User point of view. The Product is the end result of your project and characterizes by the Product Scope. Thus, the Product Scope description includes features of a product, how the product will look like using these features, and how will it work. Product Scope also describes the ways of measuring the product performance.

The Project Scope, on the other hand, is an agreement of the work which is needed to deliver the product, service, or result. To develop product features, you establish a project which has a schedule, budget, and resource allocation. In other words, the work you do to construct your product is the Project Scope.

Design & Architecture:

The product owner or manger is responsible for defining the architecture and design of the product, which should take the following into consideration: 
  • Business Idea & Strategy
  • Identifying and Creating a product feature
  • Aligning with Market Trends
  • Define Product Performance Indicators
  • Prioritize the implementation of features and bugs

Though a project may include the product architecture and design as part of the scope, the focus of the project team will be more on the following:

Defining the project scheduling, taking into account the deliverables at various milestones. 
  • Monitoring the budget
  • Planning and managing resources
  • Problem and issue management 
  • Risk management
  • Managing the scope creep

About the Author:

Kannan Subbiah (TR RID: J-8107-2016), management professional with 27 years of overall experience in IT Project, Product and program Management, Enterprise & Solution Architecture and Design & Deployment. One can subscribe to his daily digest at Tech-Bytes by Kanna Subbiah and can follow him at twitter - @kannagoldsun
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