Organizations are shifting from the traditional Project Management to Product-centric approaches in order to better serve their internal and external customers. Why? A Product-centric approach is customer-focused, quickly delivers value and has the agility to quickly adapt to changing environments.
If you are making this transition, establishing a Product Vision and communicating a strategy are some of the biggest challenges you may face when shifting from Project to Product. Organizations often struggle to align their vision, goals and initiatives and to get a consensus on Product direction – which can lead to a disconnect between the organizational strategy and what’s being executed on the ground.
Having the right team of Production Practitioners in place, whether you are hiring or partnering with a consulting firm, is key to your success. Product Practitioners can help you overcome these challenges by helping to instill a holistic view and “system thinking” to achieve clarity of purpose, vision and strategy. Practitioners can also help establish the Product vision by clearly defining the Problem Space and implementing robust customer/user research loops – and in turn aligning the solution development to key business outcomes and problems.
What should you look for? The best Product Practitioners share these 5 common characteristics:
- Listening: Practitioners need to listen to what Stakeholders have to say and ask questions that elicit thoughtful answers. Identifying issues, bottlenecks and opportunities is built on a foundation of listening. If your Product Practitioner confidently claims to understand your issues and knows how to solve them without proactively listening to Stakeholders, that should set off a warning bell.
- Empathy: Products should provide value to the user and the organization. Getting focused research and feedback that leads to a true understanding of the user perspective is singularly important to building products that create and deliver value.
- Reliance on Data: A Practitioner’s advice and recommendations should be based on data derived from user research, findings from surveys, performance indicators or other metrics. Rationale shouldn’t be vague, lack precision or based on opinion.
- A Dot Connector: Product Practitioners are bridges between business, IT and other Stakeholders. They facilitate conversations among teams that help them simplify things, align common concerns and connect the dots that show how each teams’ efforts contribute to the Product vision.
- Openness to Alternatives: Agility implies collaboration and flexibility. Product Practitioners must be willing to listen to differing viewpoints, be open to alternatives and be able to take course-correction actions when it is appropriate. Rather than say “this will never work because…” a good Product consultant takes a “this can work if…” approach when weighing alternative options.
Product Practitioners can be valuable assets in helping you set and communicate an effective Product vision and align the IT execution throughout your organization with the broader business outcomes. When deciding to engage or continue with Practitioners, be sure to seek out the qualities of effective Product Practitioners. An over-confident, know-it-all approach based on opinions and solely past experience can make your challenges more difficult. The best Product Practitioners start off by listening, learning and collecting data to gain a full understanding of where you are. They collaborate with your teams, aligning their efforts to the Product Vision and are open to alternatives as they work toward optimal solutions. They practice what they preach regarding a Product-centric, customer focused approach, which delivers value and has the agility to quickly adapt to changing needs.