Crossing the project-to-product chasm

Most IT organizations have honed their ability to deliver projects when the scope and desired outcome are static, but struggle when priorities shift or are not clearly defined. Several leading IT organizations have turned to product-based IT to cut through this ambiguity and elevate their role from service provider to business partner.

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Common false starts

  • Assuming everything must be product-based. When shifting to a product-based operating model, there will still be some cases where traditional, project-based teams and waterfall delivery are appropriate. Large-scale ERP migrations, for example, may continue in a waterfall fashion, or your CFO may not be comfortable with a product team making changes to the general ledger platform every two weeks. Each application of product-based IT is a unique situation and should be assessed before force-fitting a new operating model.
  • Confusing product-based IT with Agile. Many organizations will be quick to claim victory or assume they are “already product-based” because they are executing in two-week sprints. In reality, a team could be sprinting every two weeks and producing outputs that do not drive targeted business outcomes. The spirit of product-based IT lies in the continuous engagement with the customer, using agile as a mechanism to pivot quickly to meet the ever-changing customer needs.
  • Lacking product management muscles in IT. Challenges often emerge when IT starts increasing its role in setting product strategy and defining product roadmaps. Effective product managers have a pulse on external market forces and the competitive landscape. These are not skills that have traditionally lived in the IT organization. Cultivating new skills through a rigorous training program for product managers is often necessary to build brand permission with the business.

Not changing the lens on business conversations

IT often starts with feasibility and viability, approaching desirability only if the former two boxes are checked. Product managers need to start with desirability and build the ability to adapt their storyline based on the audience. Avoiding technical speak and endless strings of three letter acronyms will also go far in building this rapport.

Shifting to product-based IT is a major cultural and operational change. When done well, it can result in better relationships with customers and business partners, increased agility and improved business outcomes.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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