Moving From Project-Based to Product-Based

Our Roundtable Sessions are invite-only events hosted by peers for peers that bring together a select group of senior IT leaders from across industries for topic-driven, intimate dialog on current trends and topics. We hosted this Session featuring a group of CXOs and other IT executives. The group met remotely to discuss moving from project to product - building the right thing at the right time, led by the VP, IT Application Development and Production Support for a global telecommunications company. This Session was sponsored by CPrime.

August 10, 2021

Monumental projects with requirements set in stone are much likelier to fail today than ever before. Customer expectations and the market dynamics are changing every day. If your product can’t follow suit and adapt in time, it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant. Conversely, implementing a product-first approach enables you to be more agile and customer-centered.  

What is the difference between product versus project focus?

An attendee defined a project as an initiative with fixed time, budget, and scope. In a project, you don’t expect things to change along the way. Some examples of items that can be managed as a project are organizing significant events or something you have regularly done in the past and will execute in the same manner as before. A product, on the other hand, is dynamic. When introducing a product, you don’t know how your audience will react. So, you need to be careful not to lock yourself in and leave ample room for change/improvements.  

How does product building enable agility?  

A speaker expressed that you can’t win in a competitive marketplace if you don’t anticipate business needs. Instead, promote a culture that not only accepts changes but embraces them. So, instead of building giant monoliths with predefined requirements for the sake of predictability, work incrementally. Welcome feedback from your customers and adapt your product (and its requirements) as you go.  

A product-based approach catalyzes change within and decreases time-to-market. For example, if a customer requests a bespoke solution, you should consider configurational tweaks or UI modifications instead of implementing a new, full-fledged project.  

Start By Building Credibility

When trying to incorporate a product-based culture within an organization, the IT team should start small. Accomplishing small wins in areas with the least amount of organizational friction can enable technology teams to build their credibility and establish a new, revitalized relationship with the business teams. Once businesspeople notice that you can understand and cater to emerging customer needs more efficiently, they are more likely to come on board with the transition.

Building relationships with people across your organization, both personally and professionally, can help you identify your early adopters and potential resisters. For example, an executive mentioned that they spent most of their time forming relationships in their early days. By knowing what people from different departments wanted, they were empowered as a team to identify areas to get their quick, small victories.

How has product-focused building changed the consulting industry?

An executive remarked that the consulting industry has significantly changed over the last decade or so. Back in the day, consultants would come in, quote tens of millions of dollars, and then spend months, if not years, building an immense project. Requirements were set in stone, and incorporating customer feedback after delivery would again cost millions. Today they sign much smaller contracts and help companies build products incrementally. Instead of saying, “Thanks for the millions, hope this project works for you,” they say, “Let’s iteratively build a product that will be well-accepted by the market.”

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