Six Benefits of Transitioning to a Product-Led Organization
By: Alex Adamopoulos, Founder and CEO of Emergn Global
What comes to mind when you hear popular phrases such as digital transformation or agile this or lean that? If you’re like many of today’s business and technology leaders, then you know that these phrases can do more harm than good simply because they mean so many different things to different people.
There isn’t a singular approach to any transformation effort regardless of which word you choose to call it. Ultimately, the whole basis for what organizations are describing is really a set of modern methods for shaping their idea-to-market approach. Those that are doing it well have realized it isn’t about Scrum or SAFe. It isn’t about design thinking or systems thinking. It isn’t about agile ceremonies and the voice of the customer. It isn’t about any one of these things. It’s about all of these things.
The move from projects to product-led organizations stems from the realization that in order to accelerate a company’s ability to deliver the best products and compete effectively, it takes more than a good idea, technology and engineering. It requires the business and technology stakeholders to collaborate effectively and iterate towards a great product that customers love.
Traditional project management models are built on handoffs between the business and technology, on ideas that were made concrete and certain at the beginning. Once the business case has been approved it’s often that the different parts stop effectively working together. Rather than collaborating to ensure that the product maps back to business goals, the interaction becomes one about holding the delivery to account. This transactional process is slow, expensive, and degrades the quality of engagements between business and technology. Inefficiencies lead to slower time to market and often mean the product isn’t right for the market.
To solve this and to make large change programs or digital transformation effort work, organizations must move from a project-dominant model to one that invests, grows and builds products. One in which the finite timing, discrete funding and tightly controlled project management philosophy are replaced by a continuously funded product development team that is empowered to experiment, explore and meet real-world customer expectations. More importantly, this should all be done without the belief in any single methodology but rather a tailored approach that is specific to the context of how your organization works, and one that encourages constant collaboration between technologists and business leaders.
This thinking transcends the teams within the company and extends out to your partners who you rely upon to deliver services in support of your efforts. It may mean revisiting your commercial models and developing a pay-for-success mindset with suppliers. It will likely mean that your partners may have to break from their traditional views in order to ensure they can support the pace of change you want to embed now and for your future scale and growth.
So, where do you start? To realize the benefits of a product-led organization the areas to be thinking about include:
An Emphasis on Discovery
The term ‘discovery’ is another popular phrase that can be misunderstood. Part of it describes what many would say is an incremental approach to building software and testing ideas. The other, perhaps more important part is more analytical and talks to the roots of transformation, analyzing organizational capabilities and constraints, revealing market opportunities and determining whether the work you’re doing actually delivers value to customers.
Bringing Ideas to Life
Through experimentation, visualization of work, and identifying and defining where value exists, you start to bring your ideas to life and build evidence that your proposed transformation will work in the context in which your business needs it. The leverage of multiple stakeholders and the use of more collaborative techniques such as hothousing can make a huge impact on your ability to accelerate results.
Make Room for Growth
As you begin to test different methods and principles you will end up designing an end-to-end process to scale transformation in ways that best match each part of the business. There is a scale and speed element associated that you need to consider. How long do ideas sit in a queue before being assessed for value? How long does it take to get the chosen idea into the hands of a customer? How can you speed up that process and allow room to scale faster?
Change that Sticks
You’ll need to consider how to embed lasting change and learning that sticks. Classroom training doesn’t cut it. Your teams and partners need an approach to learning new skills that is more work-based alongside guided coaching. This drives the enablement you’re seeking with the mindsets, skills and capabilities needed to achieve a transformation that sticks.
One of the most important steps is to identify your core ‘products,’ services or capabilities. These are the things that the business does to serve customers regardless of the technology, systems architecture or team structures. They can be described as the ‘jobs-to-be-done’ of the organization. Identifying the long-term product teams means you can continually improve capability and innovate over the longer-term.
As you employ such methods towards a product-led organization you can then look to some of the key benefits that you will achieve. There are six primary benefits that you should look for and can measure as you mature your product led organization if you are employing similar principles and methods as stated in the image.
About the Author
Alex Adamopoulos has enjoyed a 30-plus year career in professional services organizations encompassing management consulting through product engineering. As the founder and CEO of Emergn Global, he has instilled what he calls the Emergn Way into the organization which centers on three core principles; care for and invest in people, be deliberate about delighting customers, and bring new perspectives to get better results. He has served in several leadership roles within high growth companies, helping them realize their next stage of development and building them into global profit centers. His defining work has been in helping enterprise companies adopt modern ways of working and accelerate the rate at which they improve and deliver their products and services. Adamopoulos serves as a mentor to other leaders in business and as an advisor to startup and early-stage companies. He serves on the advisory board of the Drucker Society and is a contributing writer to Forbes, and a recognized and published author and speaker on related business and leadership topics.