Is it time to move from projects to products?

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In our thought paper “Moving from projects to products,” we look at the growing importance of having a product-focused mindset – a fresh perspective that pushes the customer to the forefront, with a laser focus on always adding value.

Moving from projects to products suits the modern business landscape 

In recent years, two fundamental truths have become apparent. First, that customer needs can change overnight (the pandemic pushed that to the forefront). Second, and crucially, that we live in an uncertain world. Projects are based on certainties, like knowing what next year’s customers are going to need, and how much time and money it will cost to meet those needs. As such, they’re often set up to fail, or at least to fall short.

We often point to the Pareto Principle (80:20 rule), where we accept that 80% of value is driven by just 20% of the effort, as most features are rarely used. All too often, projects lead to excessive waste because they’re built on the assumption that we know what customers value upfront, rather than accepting that we don’t always know, and therefore we need to get our products and services into the hands of customers as early as possible for their feedback. That’s to say, rather than guess where the valuable 20% is, go and find it instead.

With a product mindset, the customer value is always at the heart of the process, and the emphasis is on continuous collaboration and discovery. That requires having the right long-term strategy and is ultimately dependent on developing an agile, empowered, and aligned workforce that can react quickly to changes in the landscape.  

The essential questions to ask before you move from projects to products

We know from experience that moving from projects to products isn’t easy, and that there are always obstacles to overcome. A business might be constrained by budgets and the way funding is allocated, or it could be an organization (a governmental one, perhaps) that has become beholden to certain working methods, has a complex set of stakeholders, and is reticent to embrace change.

But if you can find the right answers to these key questions, it could be truly transformative:

  • Why do we want to change?   
  • What is the customer experience that will give us a competitive advantage, and how can we validate this?
  • Which solutions and capabilities should we prioritize and invest in to deliver that customer experience? 
  • Can we make savings by scaling back projects that aren’t delivering our target customer experience? Or can we double down on the 20% that’s delivering value?

For further analysis, read our recent eBook, “L&D and the power of change,” which outlines how organizations can tackle this monumental mindset shift through their learning and development teams.