JOURNALFrom Project to Product

A mindset for product engineering – Pt 2

Posted by Justin Tomlinson . Sep 05.22

The big ‘A’ Agile world we now inhabit is full of jargon. One problem with jargon is that different terms mean different things in different people’s mental models.

This can create confusion and misaligned expectations which sets you up for the wrong kind of ‘fail fast’. Here’s some of the words that get thrown into the mix by folk who invariably mean different things:

  • Agile development, XP, Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, Safe, DaD, Lean, Value Driven development, Value Stream development
  • HCD, CX, UX, UI
  • CI/CD Pipeline automation, TDD
  • Flow, flow metrics, velocity, DORA metrics
  • Cloud-native, modular, observable, separation of concerns, domain driven, microservices, datamesh, event driven

In my last post, I tried to contextualise some of these terms against a larger construct which we call the ‘Trifecta of Transformation’. This shows three core interlocking elements – Mindset, Product and Delivery – and the traits within them that are required to be masters in digital business. It’s how we think about things at HYPR.

In this post, I want to focus on the Product element of that Trifecta and how we can increase our chances of building the right things.

Google invented the design sprint way back in 2010 as a means of validating what’s built. Yet more than a decade on, it’s still surprisingly rare to find organisations that have embedded this now proven way of working. Few have invested in building the teams to do it and fewer still consider their team’s work as part of a Value Stream focused on delighting customers. This is especially the case in Aotearoa where the transition from project to product thinking is still at a relatively early stage.

The process of building the right thing (as opposed to building the thing right), is a critical skill for any organisation – from startups pivoting towards value, disrupted cash cows that have lost their innovation gene and any other business mired in complacent entropy and mediocrity.

There are no longer any excuses not to be using validation processes because they’ve evolved, become more accurate and are simpler to adopt. In fact, it’s never been easier to identify customer value signals in new concepts, business models and feature ideas. It can be done both qualitatively and quantitatively in short cycle times, often without the need to engage external agencies and gift them a mountain of money.

We can do all these things…

  • Growth hack to scrape and interpret data into insight, then use it to identify our audience and grab their attention by many marketing means
  • Build, tear down and rebuild landing pages in hours to test many journeys
  • Engage funnel managers to build personalised, multi-variant messaging and any number of teaser steps to entice audiences into consideration and purchase. These same methods can be used to validate the appeal of yet-to-be-built features
  • Use social media platforms to target very specific audiences and then capture their behaviour with real-time, in-depth analytics
  • Rapid, in-person research using any form of survey, paper prototypes and/or digital prototypes in apps like Sketch or Figma
  • It is also true that the skilled 'researcher' understands the deep psychology of latent customer needs, wants and desires and can structure their interactions to maximise this insight
  • Finally, we know a lot more about RICE, Cost of Delay, ‘Value Filtering’ and how we might decide what to build first

All of this helps us discern value from noise, dodge the bias and build clear blue water between us and the competition. In progressive businesses, these validation processes are used extensively by small teams of people to increase the chances that the overall Value Stream is building the right things for customers. And they’re doing it in low-cost rapid cycles in tandem with delivery sprints. You can do this too.

At HYPR, we call this capability ‘Continuous Discovery'. It dovetails perfectly with our Continuous Delivery approach and our Mindset coaching abilities. We can help you create one aligned team with continuous flow of the highest value output. How does that sound?

Let’s talk.

Justin Tomlinson

CEO 'JT' has worked his way from the coalface of technical delivery to running product and technology for household brands including AOL, Sky Europe and JK Rowling's Wizarding World. He has a strong focus on people and is a true 'servant leader'.

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