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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Tivig

Product Agility in A Nutshell

The transition from projects to products has started over the years due to a higher focus for organizations to represent the interests of their customers. The shift was welcome under the circumstances: customer demands have changed, the temporary initiatives are seen to constrain team performance, the outcomes are measured by customer satisfaction not by project objectives, and business teams are more and more interested in owing products and building business models.

When Agile was first introduced as a delivery approach in the early 2000s, the reaction of the market was not one of acceptance. Many have resisted the Agile approaches and the idea of agility for many years. Some Project Managers convinced they were doing the right thing managing projects using traditional or waterfall methods, they had a hard time understanding that other methods can be of use and can deliver better results. Others have embraced Agile right away and started applying it mainly in software projects where adoption was easier and less resistant. But there was also a small category of project managers who took Agile as a new opportunity to develop the product agility mentality. It was no longer about project execution through tasks and meeting the project objectives to be successful. The focus became value to users or customers and ability of organizations to respond to change as needed.

A word map showing Value as the most common response

What is Product Agility? The capability of allowing the products to evolve and grow naturally, through iterations and small increments of value, and incorporate customer feedback loops that contribute to continuous improvement. We want our products to be actual, to resonate continuously with our customers and to help us grow our companies. At the end of the day, every company’s dream is to grow and continue to deliver value to its customers and users.

The product paradigm is easier to understand and to explain by organizations. Teams can structure around products and portfolio of products and design streams of value or revenue for their organizations. This way, teams can act as mini-start-ups in organizations, self-sufficient and self-organized. With their own budgets that they can produce by delivering values to customers, they can get more money to invest back into the products that they need. Budget approval becomes a value management lean operation and moves away from a lengthy management process.

Graphic showing a traditional budgets as being process oriented and cyclical while lean budgets are being more flexible and iterative.

Source: “Product Management: The 4th P of Project Management”, NewGenP Webinar, July 9 ,2020

Graphic showing products deliver value to customers and customers provide feedback on products

The purpose of simplifying the internal processes is to get your products into the hands of your customers and users faster, with no compromise on the value and quality components. Customers and users get to experience the products firsthand, by using or purchasing them. Customers and users do not care about projects, project charters, RACI charts, Risk logs or requirements document. But they do care about the product features that solve their problems and address their needs. As customers, we buy features that resonate with our needs, and we use them as long as our needs are satisfied. We like to provide feedback and see that our voices are heard. The feedback is a powerful tool that organizations can use to improve on features and services that require more attention. Also, feedback can be a continuous source of ideas for our product backlogs, new enhancements that we can work on to get new customers or continue to have the loyalty of existing ones.

Customers are also willing to pay for these features and the price levels can differ as the value offered can be different as well. When a customer interacts with an organization, they interact with a product, and they become users of that product. This interaction is critical for organizations and the focus of discussion to product life cycle is key to understand where some of the gaps may be. Looking at all stages of the product life cycles; teams have full visibility into what products are designed to accomplish. For that, following a model like the iterative product development approach will help identify the stages of product development and how products can grow and deliver customer value. Approaches like this will also help the teams deal with changes in the market, in the customer demands or delivery shifts so needed for organizations.

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