Projects and Products

Jun 21, 2024 2:42 pm

Happy Friday!

It is interesting to hear the shifts that are happening across clients. No, I'm not talking about every company trying to throw AI at everything. I'm talking about more fundamental changes. One of these changes that I keep bumping into is shifting from a project to a product mentality.

I'll be honest. I have an issue with that framing.

The idea behind this change is that companies have invested heavily in project management. There isn't anything really wrong with this, but it does mean that at some point, all work is treated as a project with all of the governance and Gantt charts. Another lens is that companies invest heavily in operational and execution competence. The problem is that they didn't invest in innovation competence.

This is where the idea of product thinking comes in. In a nutshell, product thinking is looked at as a way to wrangle and make decisions about the unknown and to look at work that doesn't fit so neatly in the project shape bucket. For example, if you want to build a new software product, its investment might go on for years, making it an awkward fit for a typical project that wants to end.

The truth of it is that you need both sets of competencies. It's not a either or, but an incorporation of both.

I think product managers need to have the tools to get out and talk with customers and look at analytics to find out what is valuable. I think they need the capability to experiment and prove their idea will work rapidly. Then, they need to work with project management folks to bring their idea to market quickly, safely, and within a reasonable budget. From here, you can either do another full cycle or set aside some time to stabilize in the early market. Either way, both product and project managers are working together.