Product project management: How to ensure your agency delivers for early-stage founders

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The shift toward product-focused business models has sparked a major demand for product project management within agencies. And in fact, Gartner projects that 40% of large enterprises are moving toward product-centric delivery to drive innovation and commercialization. 

Agencies working with early-stage founders (where every penny and second counts) need a more adaptable and fluid approach that balances product vision and startup agility. 

Below, you’ll learn how product management differs from traditional project management, where they can overlap, and the elements of product project management your agency should prioritize to ensure successful and timely delivery for your early-stage founder clients.

What is product project management?

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Product project management is a holistic approach to managing a product’s life cycle, from ideation and market research to design, development, launch, and retirement.

It involves collaborating with cross-functional teams (designers, developers, marketers, and stakeholders), aligning goals and expectations, and continuously adapting to changing market conditions and customer feedback. 

It goes beyond delivering the project on time and within budget — it’s about delivering a valuable and successful product that meets customer needs and business objectives. Usually, you’ll need a product strategy, roadmap, and delivery plan to manage product projects effectively. 

For instance, if your agency is creating a mobile app for an early-stage founder in software development, your product roadmap would include:

  • Defining the product vision

  • Identifying features and requirements

  • Allocating resources

  • Setting timelines and milestones

  • Conducting user research and testing

This strategy helps you establish a clear direction for the new product and align all stakeholders on its scope, purpose, and goals.

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Understanding product management vs. project management

It’s easy to confuse product management and project management, but there are some key differences.

Project management focuses on executing specific tasks and activities within a set timeline, budget, and scope. It typically follows a structured approach with well-defined phases (initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, closure), methodologies (traditional or agile frameworks), tools (Gantt charts, Kanban boards), and KPIs (budget variance, on-time delivery rates) to meet project objectives successfully.

Product management is more flexible and iterative. It involves defining the product vision, strategy, and roadmap based on market research and customer needs and working with cross-functional product teams to execute the plan.

Product managers make strategic decisions and prioritize features based on their potential impact on the product’s success, while the project manager’s role is to coordinate tasks, manage resources, and track progress to ensure a successful product.

Simply put, product management asks: “What should we build?” while project management answers: “How and when should we build it?” 

Where product management and project management overlap

While the two concepts are distinct, there are a few areas where product management and project management overlap — and it’s key to understand these areas to ensure a smooth and successful collaboration with early-stage founders.

Scope definition

Product managers define the scope of the product by specifying its features, functionalities, and overall goals. Project managers define the project’s scope, including the tasks, deliverables, and timelines needed to develop the product. However, both must work together to ensure the project’s scope aligns with the product vision and objectives.

Requirements management

There’s a constant back and forth between product managers and project managers to make sure the product requirements are feasible, within budget, and aligned with the overall goals. 

Product managers gather and manage product requirements, which often serve as helpful guides for project managers when creating project plans. Then, the project manager will ensure the project plan aligns with those product requirements.

Timeline and milestone tracking

Both product and project managers are responsible for tracking timelines and milestones throughout product development to make sure clients get their deliverables on time. 

Product managers monitor the overall product roadmap and release schedules, while project managers track project timelines, ensuring that tasks are completed on schedule to meet product deadlines.

Stakeholder communication

Miscommunication and lack of alignment with stakeholders can derail a product project’s success — scope creep, missed deadlines, and budget overruns, to name a few. Both roles need to maintain effective communication with stakeholders throughout the process, providing updates on progress, addressing any concerns or changes, and collecting feedback.

Product managers communicate with internal teams, customers, and stakeholders to gather feedback and convey the product vision. Project managers communicate project status, risks, and changes to stakeholders and team members.

Essential elements of product project management agencies should prioritize

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Early-stage companies and startups operate in a fast-paced, agile environment. They often pivot and adapt their products based on user feedback, market changes, and business objectives. 

And so, agencies working with these companies should be adaptable and agile in their product project management approach, too! Here’s what to prioritize:

1. Project initiation

Every product project needs a solid foundation. Skipping or rushing through the project initiation step can lead to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and, ultimately, a failed project. During project initiation, your agency can use product management tools to:

  • Define project objectives, goals, and scope: Establish clear and measurable project objectives (e.g., increase product reach, improve user experience), identify what success looks like for the product (increased sales, positive user feedback, etc.), and define the project scope (tasks, deliverables, end dates).

  • Identify key stakeholders and their roles: Who are the key players (product owner, project sponsor, and end users)? What are their responsibilities and contributions to the project? Assign roles based on skill sets and availability.

  • Assess project feasibility: Evaluate resource availability, budget constraints, and potential bottlenecks to determine if the project is feasible in its current form. If not, how can you make adjustments to ensure its success?

Once the project initiation phase is complete, you can push through to the next element.

2. Project planning 

During project planning, you break the project into smaller, manageable tasks and create a timeline to complete those tasks. This provides structure and organization to the project, allowing for better management and tracking of tasks, resources, and timelines. 

In this phase, you’ll:

  • Develop a detailed project plan outlining tasks, timelines, and dependencies.

  • Allocate resources (human, financial, and material) required for the project.

  • Define project roles and responsibilities.

  • Establish a communication plan.

  • Set project milestones and deliverables.

  • Create a risk management plan. 

Without proper project planning, confusion and chaos can ensue, leading to delays, miscommunication, and project failures. Planning helps set realistic expectations, anticipate and mitigate potential risks, and ensure the project stays on track.

3. Requirements gathering

How do you ensure a product meets its objectives and delivers value to its users? With clear, detailed, and well-defined requirements. Your team needs to understand the product vision, purpose, and intended audience to gather all the necessary information to build a successful product. 

During this phase, your agency will:

  • Collect and document the product’s functional and non-functional requirements.

  • Ensure that requirements align with customer needs and business goals. You can also identify potential conflicts or gaps in the requirements.

  • Conduct stakeholder interviews and workshops to gather feedback and clarify any uncertainties.

  • Define acceptance criteria for each requirement so there’s a clear understanding of what constitutes a successful deliverable.

Requirements gathering also helps avoid scope creep and ensures the product stays aligned with its objectives.

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4. Design and development

Designers and developers work together to build, test, and refine the product based on the requirements gathered. Agencies need to follow a user-centered and iterative design approach, continuously collecting feedback from stakeholders, clients, and end-users to improve the product. 

Common activities include:

  • Creating product design specifications and prototypes

  • Developing the product according to design specifications (writing code, creating graphics and user interfaces, and integrating third-party tools)

  • Conducting regular design and code reviews to identify and fix any issues or bugs

  • Managing the product development lifecycle from ideation to release

Agencies need to ensure their design and development processes are efficient, collaborative, and aligned with the project’s objectives to meet end-user needs and deliver value to the client.

5. Quality assurance and testing

A product’s success depends on its quality. Quality assurance and testing help ensure the product meets all requirements, functions as intended, and delivers an optimal user experience. 

It’s critical for agencies to have dedicated QA specialists who can:

  • Develop a testing strategy and test plan based on the product’s requirements.

  • Perform various testing types (unit testing, integration testing, user acceptance testing, etc.) to assess the product’s quality, functionality, and usability.

  • Identify and report defects or issues and work with the development team to fix them.

  • Ensure that the product meets quality standards and is ready for release.

This should be an ongoing process to catch any issues early on and prevent them from snowballing into bigger problems later. It also saves your agency from costly mistakes, negative user feedback, and reputational damage.

6. Communication and reporting

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Product development is a collaborative effort that takes solid communication between multiple stakeholders, including the agency, client, and end-users. This ensures that everyone is on the same page, understands their roles and responsibilities, and has visibility into the project’s progress. It also helps identify and address any workflow issues or concerns promptly, minimizing delays and miscommunications. 

To establish effective communication, your agency should:

  • Maintain open and effective communication channels among project team members and stakeholders.

  • Outline who to inform of what, when, and through which communication channel.

  • Facilitate discussions and decision-making to resolve conflicts or issues.

  • Provide regular updates and reports on the project’s status, progress, and any changes or issues that may arise.

  • Share progress reports and key metrics like cost variance, resource utilization, and timeframe adherence.

Effective communication and reporting fosters transparency, accountability, and trust between the agency and its clients, ensuring a successful project delivery.

7. Resource management

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Resource management entails allocating, monitoring, and optimizing resources (human, financial, and material) to ensure that the project stays on track and within budget. Your agency can leverage project management tools and techniques to identify and assign roles, allocate tasks and responsibilities, track progress, and manage resources efficiently. 

A resource management plan will help:

  • Allocate resources efficiently to ensure tasks are completed on schedule.

  • Address resource conflicts and constraints.

  • Monitor resource utilization and availability to prevent over or underutilization.

  • Forecast resource needs for future projects and make data-driven decisions.

Effective resource management leads to improved project outcomes, higher client satisfaction, and increased agency profitability. It also helps avoid project delays, cost overruns, and burnout among team members.

8. Launch and deployment

Here’s where you make the product available to end-users and ensure a smooth transition from development to production. To achieve this, your agency must:

  • Plan and execute the launch, including product marketing and promotion activities. This may involve creating a marketing strategy, developing marketing collateral, and conducting product demos or beta testing.

  • Ensure a smooth transition from development to production or deployment, including data migration, user access management, and technical support.

  • Monitor the product’s performance post-launch and make necessary updates or improvements.

The launch and deployment process may differ based on the type of product, its target audience, and the industry in which it operates. However, your agency needs a well-defined plan and process for a successful launch and deployment.

9. Post-launch evaluation

Product development doesn’t end with launch and deployment. Post-launch evaluation involves analyzing the product’s performance, collecting user feedback, and identifying opportunities for improvement.

Post-launch evaluation may also include:

  • Gathering user feedback through surveys, reviews, or focus groups

  • Analyzing key metrics like sales data, website traffic, or app downloads

  • Conducting A/B testing to compare different new features or design iterations

  • Considering customer support and maintenance requirements

  • Identifying opportunities for improvements and enhancements based on user feedback and data analysis

By analyzing post-launch evaluation results, your agency can make data-driven decisions to improve future product development projects, enhance their reputation and attract more clients.

10. Project closure

This is the final step, where the agency formally closes the project and transfers ownership of the product to the client. During project closure, your agency should:

  • Ensure you’ve completed and shipped all project deliverables.

  • Conduct a project review to document lessons learned, best practices, and areas for improvement.

  • Obtain formal approval and sign-off from the client.

  • Archive project documentation and assets for future reference.

Proper project closure helps your agency maintain positive client relationships, uphold its reputation, and establish a foundation for future collaborations. It also helps you to reflect on their performance and identify areas for improvement in their processes, communication, resource management, and overall project execution.

Easing your processes of product project management with

Early-stage founders often rely on agencies to bring their product vision to life. However, the success of a project ultimately boils down to effective product project management. is an all-in-one project management tool designed for client-work operations. Agencies can use’s easy-to-use templates, resource management tools, and collaboration features to streamline project management and deliver exceptional results. 

Simplify task allocation and tracking, monitor resource utilization, gather user feedback, and close projects seamlessly with by signing up today.

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