Where is the difference between project and product teams?

A project team is formed only temporarily - for the time required by the project to be implemented. The interesting thing here is that the members of a project team usually belong to different teams or departments within a company. They are brought together in a team for the project or product development on the basis of their respective expertise in order to work together in their roles on the tasks of the project in a meaningful and efficient manner.

This type of temporary team building also applies to product teams. However, this is only the case if the (re)design of a product is viewed as a project that is completed in terms of time and the team then dissolves again. If a team is entrusted with the continuous and iterative improvement of a product, it remains in its composition.

If the project team or product team is not self-organized, project management is assigned to an additional person, usually a project manager. With or without a manager, a project team works together to achieve the goal of the project, or a product team works together to create or improve the product and takes responsibility for its success.

Challenges for project teams and product teams

Especially when the members of a product or project team do not normally work together on the same team, the project manager should be aware of the following challenges and find solutions to them.

Trust among each other:

Since the members of the team either do not yet know each other or are working together on a topic for the first time, there is not yet trust among them that has been built up over many years. This only develops gradually and can be fostered by the project management through appropriate measures.

Competence varies:

The project team is put together in such a way that each required role is actually filled. This results in each team member bringing skills and experience from different areas and perhaps even industries. Acknowledging this and even seeing it as an advantage can initially cause resistance and conflict within the team. It is part of the project manager's job to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.

Communication especially important:

Especially because the members of the project or product team may be working together for the first time, regular communication with each other and the exchange of information are particularly important. After all, what takes place naturally and often informally in well-rehearsed teams must first be established in a new project team.

In the case of larger teams or teams that do not work together at the same location, the project manager should provide suitable communication channels.

Consciously consider the size of the team:

When it comes to the group size of a project team, the rule is: as small as possible, as large as necessary. Of course, all important roles in the team should be filled so that the tasks at hand can be solved efficiently. But with each additional member, the complexity of the team structure also increases and with it the need for project management: decisions take longer, the potential for conflict is higher and it becomes more difficult to arrange meetings at short notice.

Exemption from other tasks in the project phase:

Since the project team should devote its full attention to the new project, members' usual tasks must be distributed within their original teams (e.g., marketing, product development, sales) whenever possible.

Roles in the project and product team

Project team roles

A project team may include some or all of the following roles:

  • Client (such as customers or someone from the company's management, either as part of the project team or as someone from the outside who sets the requirements),
  • Project manager,
  • Project staff,
  • Project sponsor (responsible for the finances of the project; important: he is part of the project team and has a stake in the success of the project),
  • for larger projects: Steering Committee, also called Steering Committee or Control Board.

Roles of the Product Team

A Product Team is the intersection between business, user experience and technology and usually consists of roles such as:

  • Chief Product Officer, who leads the product area at an organizational level,
  • Product Manager or Product Manager, who advocates for the customer's needs within the company,
  • Designers,
  • Developers,
  • Product Marketing Manager.

Product Teams in Scrum refer to their roles as Product Owner, Scrum Master and Scrum Team.

Method for project management

In order to establish a constant project organization from the very beginning, the method for managing the project should be determined before the start. The choices are:

  • Agile methods such as Scrum or Kanban.
  • Waterfall model
  • Classic project management methods (ITIL etc.)

Author

Photo of Sohrab Salimi

Sohrab Salimi

Scrum Academy GmbH

Sohrab is a long-standing Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and CEO of the Scrum Academy GmbH based in Cologne. He is a trained medical doctor and worked for Bain & Company as a consultant and as a CIO at SE-Consulting, among others, before founding the Scrum Academy. As a consultant and trainer, he has been supporting companies from a wide range of industries for over a decade on topics related to agile transformation, innovation and organizational development.

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