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Setting up for IT success in 2020 and beyond

(Image credit: Image Credit: Rawpixel / Pixabay)

As IT departments look ahead at the year with a fresh outlook and new goals, it is especially important to implement the processes and strategies that support growth and innovation. IT leaders must pay close attention to the industry dynamics that are shaping organisational success to drive more value (as defined by the customer) and achieve business objectives.

While there are many ways that IT leaders can go about achieving success in 2020, there is a shift sweeping the industry and driving a much-desired outcome-based focus. This shift is what separates the isolated IT team that views success as a series of completed projects, from the IT organisation that rises to become a critical driver for overall business value.

It is the shift from project to product - and it can position IT teams for a highly rewarding future.

This new way of completing work will require many changes, such as prioritisation, budgeting, measurement and investment in individual team members - all while avoiding costly pitfalls. This shift has risen among the software development community in recent years as the new critical path to success. Let’s discuss what project to product really means and how it can make a positive impact in IT organisations.

Why project to product is important for 2020 success

The shift from project to product will be the biggest position that IT leaders should focus on in 2020. Many organisations have traditionally approached work from a project perspective - assigning tasks to teams with budgets and deadlines looming. These tasks build-up, and while successes are celebrated, teams are bogged down in seemingly endless projects. Shifting to product thinking means focusing on driving real value to end-users in a way that is measurable. By focusing on outcomes, teams feel a sense of ownership and responsibility to deliver a quality product to customers. It also involves redesigning the way the organisation is structured and incentivised to do work. Project to product is a continuation of agile, DevOps and Lean thinking, which high performing organisations have proven are effective practices and processes for business success and customer satisfaction. This shift to a product focus will also position an IT department to focus on incremental changes that are easier to support, receive feedback and respond to said feedback.

Leveraging improvement strategies, like value stream management, will be essential to achieving a product focus. Value stream management focuses on achieving and measuring value at every step of the software delivery lifecycle for positive business outcomes. It involves the mapping, measurement and visual elements that allow IT to effectively align with business objectives, and ultimately create happy, loyal customers.

 The benefits

There are multiple benefits that organisations will reap when moving to the product mentality.  On one had the organisation will be able to provide a more customer centric approach to delivering value. This is generally because, at least intrinsically, they know how to support a product versus a project. It also allows teams in the organisation to focus on smaller units of work which Lean thinking states allow for fewer errors and more responsiveness to change. On the other hand, the switch in mentality allows organisations to form teams around products and begin to adjust their culture around the product and its customer.  The switch to a product mentality also has the bonus of focusing the organisation on understanding the value stream that is required to deliver a successful product. When the organisation is allowed to focus on value streams and how the product lifecycle maps to it, they can measure Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that allow the business to succeed and understand customer satisfaction. It also helps avoid some big pitfalls that continue to plague IT today -- like mean time to recovery, velocity and security.

Pitfalls to avoid

In 2020, the biggest mistake IT leaders need to avoid is not adopting agile, DevOps or Lean mindsets and not investing in their people to follow these practices and further enjoy a work/life balance. Studies show that employees who are happy will typically provide a happy customer experience. Focusing on agile, DevOps, and Lean allows an organisation to focus on better employee experiences. Further, when the organisation shifts from project to product, the prioritisation of outcomes empowers employees to leverage value streams to prioritise work, increase employee engagement and ultimately reduce burnout.

A project to product transition will drastically change the way an IT department does its work. It unlocks more value than is possible with a traditional project-centred approach because it offers value incrementally. It is the next extension of the agile, DevOps and Lean mindsets because it cultivates engagement among the team while focusing on how to meet business objectives. In 2020, a strong IT team that leads the organisation to deliver the outcomes it desires will win the market.

Logan Daigle, DevOps Coach, VersionOne