Companies not traditionally dealing with software as a primary focus of their business can benefit tremendously from adding digital product management (DPM) to their value stream management.
That may seem an extraordinary statement at a time when over the past decade, with the age of application development, every business has been hailed a software business. However, digital is now determined to translate into managing products and services in new ways.
So, let's look at the types of companies that benefit most from DPM and the steps they have taken to augment their value stream management with it.
According to Gartner, product teams need to respond effectively to customer experience insights, shifting pricing and delivery models, and new drivers of digital transformation across their customer base. This can apply to any/all sectors.
However, when it comes to prioritising technology initiatives, more than half of companies report they rank digital transformation as the number one focus.
DPM provides a principled approach to making technology investments. It allows businesses to fund their most-valuable investments and prove the ROI to the business. As such, DPM is beneficial for any company that invests heavily in technology.
This doesn't mean that an organisation's products or services need to be high-tech. Indeed, banks, investment firms and government organisations have some of the heaviest investments in technology but aren't necessarily considered high-tech companies.
It's important to understand that using DPM is not difficult from a technical perspective.
DPM is becoming a significant part of every business − from the smallest mom-and-pop store to the largest corporations in the world − because every company now has to wrestle with digital offerings and the ability to interact digitally.
Moreover, companies of all sizes can benefit from DPM; however, it should be noted that in most cases, it works best for companies that have more than one product or service.
Beginning the journey
It's important to understand that using DPM is not difficult from a technical perspective. The most challenging part of it is navigating the culture change that's required for people to stop thinking in terms of projects and, instead, realign their thoughts to products.
Product management is an actual discipline that requires strategic thinking to determine why a product has value and how the value of that product will increase or decrease over time.
This is something that project management just doesn't have because projects are tasks that are set to accomplish specific challenges. Once achieved, the project is over.
This complete shift in thinking is why culture change is so vital to the success of managing a company's value streams.
Managing cultural change − some tips
Firstly, I would recommend using planning roadmaps. Many companies are already familiar with this but for DPM, roadmaps are vital. They should be created in a road-mapping tool that stakeholders in the organisation can see and share.
They need to be located in a common place so the people who need access to them, can gain it. Moreover, to ensure consistency, all stakeholders should be trained on how to create a roadmap and the format that's used for doing so.
Guidelines also need to be established regarding how often stakeholders need to review roadmaps − which serve as the main vehicle for accountability in the DPM world.
The next step is to establish roles and responsibilities for product managers. It is essential to confirm their responsibilities and identify the skillsets they require.
Product managers face externally in the business and are primarily responsible for representing the product to customers. While they occasionally interact with engineering, the majority of their time is spent providing customer engagement, so customers feel like they're getting value from the product.
Then you need to determine roles and responsibilities for product owners. It is often the case that companies mistakenly believe that product managers and product owners are one and the same thing. They are not.
They are two distinct roles with vastly different requirements that are both equally important to the success of DPM.
Product owners primarily face internally within a business as they work with research and development teams to guarantee delivery of features that are necessary for customers to gain value.
Just to reiterate, product managers, on the other hand, are the people who identify the customer need and the larger business objectives that a product or feature will fulfil, as well as its likely success in the market.
Now is the time to recognise that product strategy matters. One of the most important things to embrace about DPM is the importance of product strategy. Product managers must focus on product strategy. That strategy may take the form of identifying what customers expect to get out of a product and how it will change in the future.
The strategy must also factor in the fact that customers may not need a product in a year and must outline how to wind the product down, communicate the changes to the customers and transition them to different products.
If you've come to the realisation that DPM is a good move, the last thing is to not be afraid of the transition. It's going to be tough making the change from project to product management, but once the company gets through it, everyone will realise this is the way things should have been done from the outset.