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Product vs Project

Linking to trends – Trend 2: The focus on product over projects

If you missed part 1 of our “Linking to trends” series, you can read all about the key technology shifts for 2017 here.  This week we’re taking a look at the shift from projects as we know them to a more product development focus.

If we think of the formal definition of a project, it is defined as a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product or service.  For many project professionals, this means they’ll work on something very specific and then once the project goes live, they’ll move on to something new.  The shift to product-thinking changes this landscape a bit.

Products have their own lifecycle.  It kicks off with a customer need, then develops through research, ideation, build and launch, before moving into an evolutionary phase as it adapts to market changes.  Product development is about understanding that this is not a temporary task, but instead a long-term commitment to ensuring that the business gets maximum value out of its investment while also satisfying the customer’s evolving needs.

This, of course, does not mean that projects can fall away, it simply means that a change in mindset is required.  Consider the following:

The role of the project manager vs the product manager/owner
The product manager or owner is someone who’s always thinking ahead to the longer-term product strategy and vision.  Metrics that are of interest to them focus on customer retention, increased revenue and cost savings.  For the project manager, it’s all about delivering on an agreed set of objectives within a specified budget & period.  The project manager wants to ensure that there’s a strong delivery focus and that team members are working together to push a product forward to its next competitive position, whatever that may be.

The product team vs the project team
The product team consists of focused individuals tasked with creating maximum value to the organisation over time.  They’re in it for the long haul, constantly on the lookout for changing customer behaviours and new ideas.  The project team, on the other hand, play very specialised roles within a particular delivery and are often split across various projects at the same time. Where the product team’s role is to come up with a vision, the project team’s role is to bring that vision to life.

Product requirements vs project requirements
In a product-focused world, project requirements map to a set of product requirements that have been selected from a prioritised product backlog.  A project, therefore, forms part of a broader roadmap driven by customer feedback and market research.  Without this direction, a project runs the risk of spending months (even years) working on something that may end up completely missing the mark with customers.  Now if you ask us, that’s not a risk many of us can afford to take…

Product-thinking makes complete sense in today’s customer-driven world.  It’s become about listening, learning & adapting rather than investing time and energy into disjointed projects that don’t necessarily equate to any real business value.

Struggling to make the shift from project to product?  Want to ensure that your business will be able to reap the long-term rewards of proper product planning?  With the right guidance and support, what may seem like an impossible task now can easily become your company’s second nature. Contact us today to find out how we can help you in the product development space.

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