Project Management in Product Companies Vs. Service Companies – Harikumar R

For a while now, I am been thinking about this….BTW, this is not an article. Want to use Ganapathy’s blog to have an open (and heated, if possible) discussion on this topic and learn something in the process.

We all agree that Project Management is different from Product Management. What I am curious is how Project Management is viewed in Product Companies vs Service companies and why it is that way.

Many of the PMs (at least in Indian IT that I am in touch with) perform project management in service companies where the end goal is to meet the customer’s deadlines and deliver the project (source code or binary). They normally handle only portions of the product, often the software portion. They may not get in to the Product’s full life cycle and thus may not get to participate in the full churn of the product.

I may be wrong. That is why I want the practicing PMs, PMPs and seniors with wider exposure to share your views on the above view and the following points.

  • How different is the project management in Product companies when compared to service companies?
  • Does certifications like PMP, Prince 2 delve into the Project management aspects of building a product? If so, are they practically useful?
  • Why do most of the service companies go for all certifications like CMM, ISO etc and PMs there get PMP certified, whereas you hardly find Product companies going for them? How come many product companies are doing very well in the market without these name tags?
  • Would a project manager, with all the tags (PMP, CMMI) be a successful product manager?

As I mentioned in the beginning, I want this to be a discussion arena rather than just a post.  So please participate. It is only few questions that I had in my mind and would want to know the views from seniors with more experience. Sorry if I sounded rude.

Hope Ganapathy will post this entry in his blog being a big fan of PMP, CMMi etc.!

Harikumar is a software professional working in the IT industry for the past 12 years in Telecom/Communication products. Worked on legacy products like X.25 to the ever green IP to the present bleeding edge technology WiMAX. At present, he takes care of Product Marketing/Pre-Sales for WiMAX in Asia pac and Africa for Aviat Networks (formerly Harris Stratex neworks, Telsima Communications).


categoriaGuest Posts commento7 Comments dataMay 6th, 2010


This author published 109 posts in this site.
Ganapathy Subramanian, Founder and CEO of MS Academy has a B.E degree from CEG Anna University. After 20 years in IT industry, he left a senior management position to pursue and lead his dream project - Management Scholars Academy. In his successful IT career, Ganapathy has been VP-HR at Polaris FT Ltd and Director-Projects at CSC India Pvt Ltd. He has designed, developed, and deployed many innovative leadership training programs, PM competency diagnostics frameworks, and performance management systems for project managers. These programs helped the corporates build PM competency and excel in project management practices. Ganapathy has traveled extensively in the US, UK, Japan and Singapore as a consultant for AT&T, Lucent, Citibank, CSC, Unilever and Visa. Ganapathy has been a mentor to many project managers in CSC, Polaris and now to hundreds of PMs through MS Academy. He has coached many PMs to appear and get the PMP certification. The reason MS Academy's PMP training program has become so popular so quickly is that the trainers give personal time and attention during and after the boot camp and guide the PMP aspirants step by step towards their goal. Please visit or contact for further details.


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May 7th, 2010

Right Question though!!! Is that because product companies do not have a compelling customer although the senior management is the customer for product department. But again the same product company has to sell and deploy the product. I feel that is the discretion of product companines not looking out for such tags like PMP or CMMI. Oh.. dont you agree that product manager has inborn skills that a PMP or CMMI profess!!!!

May 7th, 2010

Project Management :


1.Delivering Value (to all stakeholders)
2.Reducing the time to market
3.Early returns for the customers and vendors
4.Producing Scalable products
5.Reducing the wastes(including costs and defects)
6.Allowing for Co-creation and
7.Customer collaboration

I would think these are all common to both Service and Product companies.

There are some attributes for achieving the above list:
(Many SMOs stop with these attributes for project management – unfortunately)

Attributes : Managing and controlling,

Source Code
Test Suites,
Delivery etc.

Project Management is managing objectives like Cost, Quality and Schedule more than the attributes.

This lack of overall vision amongst the project managers in service industries reflect in their project delays, increased cost, attrition, etc. That’s why more process are required in service industries and they go for CMMI, ISO. This is not to demean standards like ISO, CMMI etc.

On the contrary, if a company truly adheres to the principle of CMMI / ISO and apply those in philosophy and spirit, it can easily move towards TQM organization. But these cases are very rare.

For Product companies :

Agreed.. Product companies over a period of time will have some advantage as their own BA team and Sr.Management team play significant role in product evolution(of course with the participation from user domains).

But to get to there they have to believe, trust in the firm professional ethos, pump bountiful energy, create innovations, sacrifice temptations for quick earnings and above all ability to be patient after all the efforts put before they roll out THE PRODUCT. After establishing their product reasonably well in the market, they can plan and carry out their future versions in controlled manner

For service companies :

They seem to have advantages like quick returns on investment and 100% customization, and wide range of services etc. However they need to have their extra edge all the time to be remarkable when compared to their competitors. Hence they need solid processes both on understanding the objectives and controlling the attributes.

One final thought …….Standardization (process) and Innovation are two sides of the same coin. Be it product or service attune to this.

Just my 2 cents please.

May 7th, 2010

Hello Rama,

Thanks for your comment.

Product Companies do have customers and in most cases, a real customer (the actual end user). Product companies do have processes and just that they dont have these tags. Having worked in a Product company, I would stick my neck out and say that the processes followed by product companies are much more “efficient” than what these name tags bring in.

A product manager has to wear many hats starting from inception of the product to designing, marketing, pricing, branding to name a few. I am not sure whether i should agree to your last point. Should be a good discussion and request you to throw more light on this.

May 7th, 2010

Although I’m a PMP with a background in IT services, I also own several product businesses and can see where certification would help in product development. While my products are mostly consumer good which aren’t very complex many of the processes I learned through the PMP certification and project management experience are directly applicable to product development. The one product area which does treat project management as a profession is construction management. Second to IT, it is the largest market for PMP certifications.

Umasree Raghunath
May 7th, 2010

Very interesting topic. I would like to big with a vital way of we perceiving the service industry today. To most of us working in the IT industry, the applications we build is also considered as Products. And hence Product Management and Project Management widely go hand in hand.

Project Management is a process of achieving the Product Management. For example, in a project of constructing a Bridge or a Dam, the end result is considered a Product … where the process of initiating till the product is made usable to larger masses, the process of managing the same is Project Management…

Shorter than a decade’s time, we will see the value of Project Management for bringing in better Products….be it consumer durables, machinery and infrastructure, service utilities or the big and broader projects including space projects and inter continental relationships …. In fact, Product Management is not confined to the building up the product and selling it in the market…. the entire gamaut of tasks includes project or phase wise planning ( Infrastructure, machinery, resources, government licenses, etc), design (architecture,layouts, designs), development ( manufacturing in product terminology), testing ( Quality Assurance and Quality control in product rating), Release Management ( Grading, standardization, packaging, shipping) and finally GO Live (in IT), Sales & Distribution (in Products scenario)…so to me the whole list of activities are almost the same, with few customizations here and there depending on the business need.

So it is even a wrong argument to raise that Product Management do not need Project Management, not Project Management is not applicable to Products…. in the larger global economy and the bilateral trade arena, from the retail, domestic markets to wholesales, global markets, companies would achieve success and profits only when it managed and handled well, and for this, defined way of management as specified in Project Management is any day a better way to handle business.

Am sure governments will save millions of dollars that are caused to project overruns…had they employed good project managers to handle them with proper risk and compliance planning and save resources and millions that can support other govenrmental initiatives for the developing Nations.

It is just my perception and way of looking at the whole thing and would appreciate other’s view points as well.. Thanks….Umasree

May 19th, 2010

Hello Umasree,

Thanks for your insights into project managemnt. I have no second thoughts in saying that product companies need project management. I was wondering how project management is different in product companies where they don’t go in for fancy name tags like CMMI, PMP etc.

Any task is project, be it cooking to reaching ones destination to making a web site to making a high performance core router. Project management in all of them would play a vital role and any project if managed well from the requirements to the end finishing (call it as testing) would lead to success.

The service industry mostly does software (call it products) and most of the product companies makes devices (a combination of hardware and software). Guess there would be some difference in these 2 categories and was wondering how these certifications would help in the later case. Or, what would be the significant nuances of project management in typical product companies.


Primavera 6
August 8th, 2010

Hey. Really nice post . Thanks alot.

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