The shift from a project to product-centered team structure has become a major point of focus for corporations in digital transformation. Through many years as an Enterprise Product & Agile Coach for organizations like Target and US Bank, Amy Walters has seen first-hand the positive impact of the project-to-product transformation.
Together with other leading industry experts and innovators, she created The Project to Product Transformation to guide IT leaders through their own transformations and highlight seven unique domains to must consider for holistic success. Take a look at the seven domains of the project-to-product transformation and consider how they could apply to your unique digital strategy.
Project to Product: Why it Matters
Why are so many organizations shifting from project-to-product in the first place? According to Veracity CEO, John Esser, this transition is one of the crucial steps teams must take to achieve true DevOps transformation. In his guidebook “Navigating Your DevOps Journey,” he discusses the negative impact of a project-centered approach.
From his perspective, a project-centered approach promotes less ownership and investment by those developing, creates operational and maintainability problems, and promotes a “throw it over the wall” mentality.
A product-centered approach, on the other hand, is meant to instill a sense of ownership and accountability across team members who are assigned to specific products over a longer period of time. He explains, “These product-centered teams orient the organization to be customer-focused with increased ownership and accountability to the success of the customer.”
As a result, accountability is improved, work quality and efficiency is increased, and customers are better off in the long run.
The 7 Domains of Project-to-Product Transformation
Moving from project to a product-centered mentality is not a quick transition, requiring true holistic change throughout an organization. Through her experience driving transformation through her own roles at Target and US Bank, Amy Walters and her fellow experts have identified seven unique “domains” or areas of transformation that need to be addressed to achieve full project-to-product transformation.
- Transformation Implementation
- Business and Technology Synchronicity
- Product Taxonomy
- Workforce and Talent
- Funding Model
- Culture and Leadership
Throughout your journey, Walter defines three unique stages your organization will pass through, moving from 1) incubation to 2) scale and 3) optimize. As you work to balance each transformation domain, each domain will also pass through these three transformations stages as you ramp up to a phase of maturity.
Take a look at each of the seven domains discussed in this eBook, the download the full version for more guidance and information.
1. Transformational Implementation
As the first step in the project to product migration, Transformational Implementation sets the stage for the transformation you hope to achieve. This stage involves:
- Establishing goals
- Determining what transformation approach you'd like to take
- Communicating plans and intentions to different levels of management
Just as every transformation is unique across different organizations, so are the ways in which these plans are formed and executed.
The biggest challenge of this domain? Getting your executives on board. Without establishing a strong connection between the proposed transformation and business strategy, it may be difficult to get the executive buy-in you need to set your teams up for success. Download the full eBook for tips on how to counteract these challenges and get your senior leadership on your side.
2. Business & Technology Synchronicity
This domain is all about achieving alignment between technology and the business. While the move from project to product-centered teams is focused on increasing efficiency within IT workflows, it is ultimately for the benefit of the end customer, which, in turn, has a significant impact on the business as a whole.
This domain encourages the discussion and implementation of processes that not only live within IT but stretch beyond into the business, impacting every phase of the product life cycle. The Project to Product Transformation outlines several recommended practices for successful implementation including effective prioritization, creating network-based organizations, and adopting DevOps practices.
3. Product Taxonomy
Defining a product taxonomy is an often confusing or ambiguous task, but one that is necessary for achieving effective project to product transformation. This taxonomy breaks down existing products to help identify relationships, hierarchies, and lifecycle stages that exist across your product portfolio. The Project to Product Transformation outlines the specific structure and of a Product taxonomy as specific steps for creating a product taxonomy of your own.
This product taxonomy can often be the tipping point for transitioning to a customer-focused organization. Walters writes “The exercise of mapping products drives leaders to think differently about their organizational structure, accountability boundaries, customer-facing outcomes, and overall alignment to business strategies.” (Walters et al. 2019, 43).
4. Workforce & Talent
A true project-to-product transformation will not only require restructuring of teams and organization but retraining of the people running them. In this new structure, contributing team members are required to think more collaboratively, take ownership, and become more interactive, forcing them to break out of siloed roles and rigid hierarchies often found within traditional organizations.
Instead, “full-stack,” cross functional teams should be created, that can see products through every unique phase of the product life cycle. After years of collective experience undergoing this transition, Walters and her team have identified several key characteristics of healthy product teams, including:
- Passion for the problems they are solving
- Commitment to solving customer problems
- Celebrated learning, even from failures
- A growth mindset
More of these qualities, specific roles for a successful product-centered team, and tips for retraining and upskilling talent can all be found in the The Project-to-Product Transformation.
5. Funding Model
When it comes to funding product-centered transformation, IT departments may need to completely redefine the way they’ve planned for funding in the past. For many, this may be the most difficult domain they’ll encounter. This is largely due to the fact that outcomes of product-centered organizations are not based on traditional metrics, but rather on the value they provide to the customer (which can often be difficult to measure).
Through experimentation, pilot teams, and quarterly or biannual funding models, IT leaders can help their organizations transition smoothly into a new funding model and break away from traditional stereotypes that label IT as a cost-center.
Enabling product teams to operate at their fullest potential requires the right architecture be set in place. This means that architecture will need to be streamlined to eliminate extra work, minimize dependencies, and eliminate any other roadblocks that could take time away from the teams operating them.
While the specific architectural design or pattern may vary, Walters and her team suggest that a focus on automation, open-source tools, and cloud-native computing are just some of the ways to make this transformation work. But beware, organizations who attempt to shift their architecture without first decoupling their systems may struggle to make this a reality.
7. Culture & Leadership
As with any digital transformation, in order to find success, the buck cannot stop with technology. Without the right culture set in place, even teams who make all the right moves with their technology and architecture will still struggle to get off the ground. Walters and her team discuss how for a successful project-to-product transformation to take place, core cultural principles like collaboration and empathy must become deeply embedded through every stage.
However, achieving this kind of cultural transformation is easier said than done. Through many years of experience, Walters has found that the most effective cultural transformations begin from the top down. Then, using incentives, Dojos, and workshops within the organization, business leaders can create a product-centered culture that stretches through every corner of the organization.
Understanding and executing across all seven domains of product transformation will enable IT leaders to achieve the project-to-product transformation they’ve been looking for. For more information on each of these domains and how they can apply to your business, download The Project to Product Transformation, available now on the Veracity Whitepapers and eBooks page.
Click the booklet on the booklet on the right to download your copy.
Esser, John. "Guidebook: Navigating Your DevOps Journey." VeracitySolutions.com. Veracity Solutions, July 3, 2019. https://www.veracitysolutions.com/devops-guidebook-by-veracity-solutions
Walters, Amy, Alan Nance, Anders Wallgren, Jason Zubrick, Pat Birkeland, Mik Kersten, and Ross Clanton. "The Project to Product Transformation." ITRevolution.com. IT Revolution, September 10, 2019. Accessed February 3, 2020. https://itrevolution.com/book/the-project-to-product-transformation/