Driving Outcomes with Product-Centric Delivery

Article Agile

Contemporary Agile delivery models are moving to a product-centric approach with a focus on outcome and product development.

As the need to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances persists, organizations are shifting to a more modern product-centric delivery model. Product-centric organizations emphasize delivering continuous value by focusing on holistic outcome rather than productivity output. Solutions and their key business impact, rather than project completion, is the new roadmap to success.

Traditional project-focused delivery is no longer the future, but instead breeds a host of problems like resource management inefficiencies, inside-out ‘check the box’ thinking, and lack of flexibility. Working linearly on specific, limited projects with one-directional teams has proven ineffective in driving true valuable results and a hindrance to overall business transformation.

Product-centric delivery focuses on continuously advancing technology by developing new and more advanced tools and products. At Apex, we believe that to effectively implement this delivery model, the organization itself also needs to be product-centric. Businesses using this approach are driven by the products they develop and ensure maximized throughput and quality infused with Agile methods. To be effective, product-centric delivery has to be a side-by-side partnership between IT and the Business

Define Your Company’s Product-Centric Organization

To establish a product-centric model, start joint conversations between Business and IT about what becoming product-centric means for each group. Once there is reasonable buy-in and consensus to the concept, it is imperative to define what a product is in the context of your organization. There is much debate on what constitutes a product and that debate alone could warrant another article. It is always wise to start simply and focus on one objective at a time, so we suggest starting with external-facing products that drive revenue first. For a financial services company, this may be online banking platforms or wealth management applications. A multi-national retail corporation, however, may be focused on various families of products such as grocery stores, automotive centers, fuel stations, etc. 

Identify Your Products

Uncover and map your company’s product canvas based on the aforementioned conversations. A product canvas would catalog the products that your company produces or major services you offer, and should include the purpose, benefits, and enablers required to create, deliver, and sustain your products.

Stop measuring like traditional PMO’s encourage you to measure, and focus instead on the outcomes of your product

Many times through this exercise alone, companies start to identify that certain products that are on life support, but achieving no real revenue based objectives, can be sunset. This enables reallocation of the funds and resources can be utilized more strategically. Therefore, be rigorous in this effort and honest about the products you have and what you still want to grow; if certain products have a feeble purpose or benefits, ask why they are still around. Additionally, you may even realize a gap in your product strategy that could be added to your portfolio.

Restructure the Organization

Move away from project-centricity by reorganizing your people into dedicated and persistent teams. By aligning people based on the identified key products for your business, you can establish long-term teams who work collaboratively on the right initiatives at the right time. Gone are the siloes that traditionally yield breakdowns in communication, hinder productivity, and impede autonomy. Ensure that teams are built to address skillsets required to build and sustain the designated product. This means vertical, full-stack teams that include testing – automated as well as some functional. The goal is to prevent constant dependencies on outside teams to fully deliver. This is a dramatic shift from the way most companies are designed today, but the transition produces powerful and unhindered benefits.

To ensure initiatives are prioritized appropriately, build out a product management organization and discipline responsible for sustaining the life of your organization’s products. Establish the vision, drive innovation, sustain road mapping processes, and understand the target customer to ensure success. Similarly, dedicate product managers and product owners accordingly. This support is imperative even in the absence of an Agile methodology, although an Agile organization will certainly make for a smoother transition and ultimately quicken the pace of delivery.

Sustaining and Unifying Changes

Once the infrastructure is in place to become product-centric, invest in growing the partnership between the Business and IT. The more robust understanding IT has of the product, the more innovative they can be on behalf of Product Management. This collaborative approach empowers IT groups to autonomously produce advanced tooling and pitch ideas, resulting in more well-rounded products. Additionally, the innovation does not fall entirely on Product Management and Product Owners, driving more unique outcomes and optimizing time for valuable resources.

When it comes time to measure outcomes of your product, establish outside-in metrics. Stop measuring like traditional PMOs encourage you to measure, and focus instead on the outcomes of your product. What does it do for your customers? Are they happy with it? What do they need from it? Are you meeting that need? Is the product building revenue for your company?

Move away from ‘checking the boxes’ on your projects, and focus on the value your product is producing. You may even find that the value it provides is not what you expected or intended. Customer satisfaction surveys can be a good indicator of the outcomes your product is producing. Quick, in-application surveys that target live users are also great options for gathering immediate feedback. Establishing a focus group of select customers that provide a good sampling of your targeted customer base would also allow you to hear directly what they think about your product or service, or the avenues in which they engage with you.

Finally, get pragmatic about governance by moving away from strict project controls that limit adaptation. With traditional project controls, the long-term commitment to the features or functionality that was originally planned for can inhibit reality. What if your year-long, well thought out plan that checks all the required boxes now needs to pivot because your customers hate using that new app?  Now, you will need to account for changes through addendums and likely a committee review, or you just push through regardless of customer response, which is even worse. This slows the team and the results you could be delivering down dramatically, as well as the return on investment (ROI). Instead, be open to changing the funding model and intake process you currently have if it is limiting adaptability.

Instead, consider funding in a way that provides more flexibility, but ensures resources are maintained for the expected life of the product. Even better, allow for initial market testing or prototyping that is less expensive but can produce the business case for additional funding.  There is no right way to do this but testing different ways will provide much needed insight into what works best for your organization.

Summary

Moving to a product-centric delivery model may seem like a daunting task and it can be challenging, but playing the game exactly the same way you have always played it will eventually negatively impact your customers, the morale of your people, and ultimately your bottom line. This approach might just be the refreshed perspective you need for renewed success.