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03 August 2018 3 min read

Success is a product of your environment

Ric Dudley

Ric Dudley
Director | Products and services | London

If only products would launch themselves. If only they’d emerge quickly and beautifully-formed from your organisation, oven-ready and eager to be devoured by a grateful customer base: True to concept, on time and on budget, seamlessly integrated and with the organisation perfectly aligned to market, sell, deliver and support them. But they don’t. Too often design is compromised by new requirements, costs spiral through system customisations, operations are not fully ready and they get bumped from release windows. Predictably, inevitably, organisations have responded by introducing governance and controls. Lots of them. Across all product stages and with each business function establishing their own unique, uncomplimentary flavour. Star chambers, risk committees, impact assessments, stage gates – you name it. The outcome? Organisational sclerosis. Time to market up, relevance down, opportunity lost.

All this against a background of convergence, nimble new entrants, fickle customers and margin pressure on core products. What to do? Well our view is that driving real improvement to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), and reducing time to market requires a series of interrelated changes:

  •          Acorns, not oak trees: Starting small, building in iterations, then scaling. An approach that cedes some control and the certainty of a predefined outcome for the greater, quicker, likelihood that it will be a success. However,  it requires an organisation to think, organise and act agile. It also means being comfortable launching only a Minimum Viable Product, then enhancing it based on client feedback
  •          Not all products are born equal:  Different elements of your portfolio have different needs. They serve different purposes, they have different requirements and they merit different approaches. A change to an on-line tariff is not the same as integrating a new content partner. One size does not fit all and different degrees of touch ‘journeys’ through your PLM lifecycle are required that better align effort and velocity with impact and risk
  •          Just like dogs at Christmas, products are for life. Everyone needs a bit of care and attention, someone to watch over them and make sure they stay on the straight and narrow. Products are no different which is why they need owners. Not old school product owners who own the whole P&L, but product owners (with a small p) in an Agile world who can make decisions and release propositions much more quickly. Someone who can midwife the product safely and successfully both through the process and across the organisation
  •          It’s the autonomy, stupid! If you really want to accelerate getting new ideas then you need to liberate your product owners and your teams. Ease the reins and give Product owners cost, scope and risk  ‘guide rails’ to operate within so they are empowered to make product changes as sprints. Without fear of failing fast or constantly having to ask permission
  •          Wag the dog: Product, not project, needs to be king and this means re-orienting the organisation, its focus and purpose, away from division of labour and silos. It means forming virtual, cross functional teams, to develop any individual product. And it means that the processes PLM is dependent on, Business Planning, Marketing, DevOps, Operations – need to be integrated, and optimised, with the explicit goal of accelerating time to market.

Pursuing the above takes vision and it takes no small amount of leadership courage. But it also requires agility, collaboration and keeping an eye on the prize. It is entirely doable and can be approached in a manner as agile as any taken towards a successful product launch.

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