Part 2: The importance in moving from a project to a product mindset

In Part 1 of this series on how to launch impactful digital products efficiently, we discussed the importance in making sure the digital product includes experience, technology, and operational components. Let’s continue the conversation by discussing the value in shifting from a project to a product mindset. This post addresses the following questions:

  • What is a product mindset?
  • What does a non-product mindset look like?
  • Why is developing a product mindset critical for organizations focused on delivering impactful digital products efficiently?

First things first: our perspective on adopting a product mindset is heavily influenced by Marty Cagan’s post Product vs. IT Mindset. Marty (@cagan) heads up the Silicon Valley Product Group and is the author of an amazing book called Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love, a must read for all digital product managers. I don’t know Marty personally, but his views on digital, technology, and the product management discipline are second to none. In this post, I’ll reference a lot of his thinking verbatim as its spot on.

Marty puts forth that the main role of the product organization in companies both large and small is to deliver value through continuous product innovation. The problem is that as most companies get larger and more successful they lose their ability to deliver ongoing value efficiently. The operative word here is “efficiently.” As companies make more money, hire more people, and expand into new markets, they often don’t have the right processes and procedures in place to identify strategic opportunities, roll out differentiating capabilities, gather real-time feedback, and iterate forward. In other words, they lose their ability innovate efficiently. What he refers to as the “IT mindset” is what many larger organizations suffer from today. Here’s a summary of Marty’s comparison of the product and IT mindsets along a set of key criteria.

Think of the product mindset as the cultural foundation upon which innovation can flourish – Moonshot by Pactera Digital

We often refer to this as the difference between projects and products. Projects, aligning with the IT mindset, represent the traditional view. Where a project has a defined beginning and end, products are evolved over time based on customer feedback, optimization testing, and strategic performance relative to KPIs.

So why is the product mindset critical for organizations focused delivering impactful digital products efficiently?

Because digital products are not projects. Companies cannot expect success if they manage their digital products as projects. Think of the product mindset as the cultural foundation upon which innovation can flourish. It’s the understanding that in order for a digital product to be successful, it needs to be supported by the right mix of experience, technology, and operational resources. It’s the knowledge that a product shouldn’t be jam-packed with tons of features and functionality to appease the various stakeholders of a business. It’s the clarity that prototypes are more effective in describing functionality than libraries of detailed documentation. It’s a grasp of the fact that a product must be designed to solve a core customer need/business problem, then put in front of the people who will use it so that it can iterate and evolve over time.

Whether its projects vs. products or the IT mindset vs. the product mindset, adopting a product view for success in this space is non-negotiable.

Now that we’ve established a shared understanding of a digital product and discussed the importance in adopting a product mindset, Part 3, the final post in this series, focuses on the best approach for launching digital products efficiently.

Mike Edmonds

Mike Edmonds

Managing Director, VP Product