The Product Plan vs. the Project Plan

The Product Plan vs. the Project Plan

The Product Plan vs. the Project Plan

Great product managers ask questions. Lots of them. But product managers need to answer questions too. And the more complex the work, the more questions abound. When I was working at another SaaS company in the HR space a few years ago, this became very clear.

As I worked through myvision for an upcoming product release, I presented the product plan to my colleagues. They were as excited as I was, but they had some questions. Actually, they had a lot of questions.

The volley of questions was understandable. Think about a major launch, such as bringing a big new product integration to market — especially one that involves well-known third-party partners. It is a massive cross-functional undertaking with seemingly infinite questions to be asked and answered.

At Aha! we knowthat a solid plan is critical to getting that work done. We talk to hundreds of product managers each week and know we are not alone in this belief. But sometimes these conversations highlight a common confusion. Not everyone is clear on thetypeof plan that is needed.

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The differences are subtle. But they are also important. Let’s use that “big integration” example to explain. You would need aproduct planto define the product requirements. But you would also need a project plan to account for all of the work and deliverables to get the entire company and partner ready to launch the new functionality and customer experience.

In the most basic terms, each plan answers a simple question:

The owners of the two plans areprobably obvious— the product manager owns theproduct planand the project manager owns theproject plan. The two collaborate closely. So it is critical that each person knows and owns the details of their plan. (And yes, it’s true that the two people are often really just one person — the very busy product manager.


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