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Projects-to-Products: Crawl, Walk, Run

By Brian Nathanson posted Apr 13, 2020 05:12 PM

One of our quasi-government agency customers asked a question we've been hearing a lot lately: "How do I get started with Product Management when I already have a project structure in place?" In other words, how do you make the transition without being disruptive to an organization that already has processes in place and business to conduct. You can't just stop everything to reinvent yourself.

We wanted to offer some suggestions for how to do this based on our own transformation experience. We have started articulating this as our "crawl, walk, run" approach to making the transition:

1) Crawl - Start by (re-)defining projects as business outcomes and creating a roadmap. The advantage of doing this step first is that it allows you to take existing project processes and continue to work with them while getting the benefits of working with roadmaps. You also begin to cultivate a culture within the organization of planning by and coming to consensus around the roadmap.

2) Walk - Introduce your products (or capabilities or value streams or whatever -- see my post here) and relate the business outcomes from the first step to them. Now you have introduced a level where you can capture and manage product information, which forms the foundation for doing product portfolio management.

3) Run - Capture your launches (see my other post here) separately so the right relationships can be defined between them and integrate your roadmap to your (agile) execution/development system to retrieve execution status in real-time and alert you if there may be potential changes in delivery.

Along the way, you can begin with your current funding model -- probably project-based funding to start -- and decide whether you wish to continue funding launches (releases) or move toward a product funding model. We recommend making that shift, but each organization will have its own cultural considerations (especially within their Finance function) to make in this regard.

That's the short summary of how we got started. I'll expand on these steps in future posts.