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Projects-to-Products: Next Steps on the Journey

By Brian Nathanson posted Jan 31, 2020 04:36 PM

In my last post, I provided some initial guidance on steps you can take to help move your organization along the path from projects-to-products. Here I will offer some longer term objectives or activities for which you should begin laying the groundwork now:

  • Start the process of enlisting your organization’s power users and other opinion leaders
    • Moving from a traditional project model to a product model doesn't just happen. People within your organization need to be convinced that the change makes sense and understand the reasoning for it. That means opinion leaders and influencers within your organization need to be enlisted into the movement. You should figure out how you can get started on this public relations activity -- if you haven't already done so. (If you have, pat yourself on the back and don't hesitate to take advantage of the benefits.)
  • Evangelize the concept of “product thinking” and begin to define CoE activities in this area
    • Part of the enlistment process will undoubtedly be a need to inform stakeholders about "product thinking" and how that world differs from the "project world." You will want to be an evangelist for this way of thinking -- which most likely means a comprehensive internal marketing and training plan that will offer opportunities for people to learn more. In certain cases, you will want to test people's knowledge and -- if appropriate -- create a "CoE-type" group that can gather best practices/success stories from across your organization about techniques or approaches that have worked well.
  • Leverage your organization’s front office product managers to help train your technology workers
    • Much of the discussion about projects-to-products focuses on internally developed systems and/or systems intended for internal use since this transition is most prominently occurring in IT shops that were used to delivering such systems. The funny thing is that what you're really attempting to do is manage your IT efforts the way that your company has been managing its customer-facing products forever. As such, your company likely has front office product managers that have been engaged in product management/marketing activities for a long time and would have much wisdom to share with your IT teams. Don't be afraid to reach out and enlist those practitioners as part of your training efforts.

Last but certainly not least, here are some final points to keep in mind:
  • Not everything is a product; both projects & products (or capabilities or valuestreams, etc.) are constructs that should be used in specific situations that call for them.
  • If the end result of a project is a product, the future product manager should be involved from the beginning if possible.
  • Figure out how to identify and promote your Chief Product Officers
  • Figure out how and where you intend to catalog deliverables or commitments from a particular product for the purposes of cross-product coordination
    • Work to obtain buy-in from all product managers on this method
    • Meet regularly to view/record dependencies between deliverables and determine impacts
  • By centering a product on business value instead of a particular technology or system, product managers should spend considerable time on future trends that might improve their product
  • Evaluate vendors & partners by their willingness to experiment and investigate new options as well as their savvy in determining which technologies have staying power

This post marks the end of our primer series on the projects-to-products transition. From here, we'll go wherever you want to take us. Comment, ask questions, and just let us know what's on your mind.