Does it really matter? Well yes, I think so, I think that a Product is derived from a number of Projects but there are 2 other reasons why I think its important to distinguish between them.
Firstly, I think that the word Product serves to focus peoples minds on the fact that what is being delivered is expected to return something on its investment.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I think it suggests that the software that is being delivered needs to compete with the offerings on the market not only in the short but the long term too. When pieces of work are in the initial stages of consideration here we take the opportunity on to indicate whether a buy versus build decision could be made. When considering the long term we should be considering any additional phases of work undertaken and whether they continue to improve the product and keep it ahead of its competitors.
It’s this last point that I think James Shore makes very well in his Do We Need Projects? post.
When I started reading books about Agile one of the things that I found difficult to comprehend was how it translated to the enterprise environment. They all spoke about delivering products, never project, the point is subtle but a mindset shift that I think we need to make.