The speed and fundamentalism with which the digital landscape and technologies are changing is increasing by the minute. The response of many companies was marked by the agile transition, the adoption of agile workflows and fundamental changes in the product development process.
But what if this strategy alone today is no longer sufficient to keep pace with the change while remaining competitive and innovative? What happens after an organization boasts about having an agile product management? And what is actually the future of organizational development?
Current challenges of product management
The answers to these questions can be found by looking closely at the current challenges of product management. And these are bigger than ever.
1. The product is becoming more complex
The possibilities of digital products are growing and the products are becoming ever more complex and larger — they are growing into product platforms. Whether new programming languages, machine learning, artifical intelligence, semantic analysis and many more, even formerly very simple products such as content portals are increasing in complexity. This translates into exponentially increasing technical requirements for the team’s skillset.
2. The audience & user groups are getting more fragmented and larger
Today, digital products generally no longer compete only in individual countries but worldwide. The potential user base that has to be reached is becoming larger and larger. And it is also getting more differentiated. Understanding these users and their needs becomes harder every day.
3. The product is everything. Everything is part of the product.
One finding that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years is that everything a company does is part of the product experience and therefore of the product. You can no longer separate the product from the other disciplines such as marketing, sales, support, etc., because for the user, all of these areas form the integral product experience and so they must be coordinated holistically.
4. Longer chains of communication are leading to information deficits
A big disadvantage of this growing complexity of products and the growing number of stakeholders is that the communication chains are getting longer and longer. However, there is a risk that too much information in the chains will be lost or incorrectly altered.
5. The focus is only on product people
Probably the biggest challenge of product management is the fact that the discipline itself covers only the classic role of product manager and product owner. However, as more and more teams are part of the product experience, the requirements for the product team in an organization increase, too.
In search for the Product Avengers
But what does that mean for the role of the product team? In agile product development processes, the product owner is often referred to as a bottleneck. The role of the PO is to protect the team, to collect the requirements of the stakeholders and translate them into product requirements. He is the vision keeper and the only one who has an eye on the entire product process.
Now, looking at the challenges of product management and the role of product owners, you’ll see that a superhero team is required: the Avengers of Product Management. But as popular as the Marvel comic heroes are, such a team with superpowers does not exist. However, that does not mean that the challenges are not solvable. Because this is where the “Shared Product Mindset” comes into play.
The “Shared Product Mindset”
The “Shared Product Mindset” is an approach to how product management and product processes should be lived and organized in an organization to face the current challenges. It is the next logical and necessary step in the agile transition of an organization: the evolution of agile product management towards a product- and innovatons-driven organization. Only if the entire organization, each team and each colleague develops a product mindset for what they do and create every day, the real innovation potential of an organization can be raised. But that does not mean that product managers or product owners are cut back in their role. No, it means that their role is more fundamental but also more diversified than ever before.
The 8 principles of the “Shared Product Mindset”
1. Everything we do is part of the product experience
As a result of the idea that everything belongs to the product, there must be a realization in the organization that all activities are part of the product experience and must be closely coordinated. No area can shirk the responsibility of being involved in the product experience — sometimes more, sometimes less, but always involved.
2. Because everything is product, every team owns part of the product
So, if everything that happens in the organization is part of a holistic product experience, then it’s only logical that every team or department owns and is responsible for part of that product experience. Audience development owns the marketing channels and user centric data streams, sales owns the monetization of the product, the support owns the feedback channels, etc.
3. Because every team owns part of the product, they should all be involved in the product development processes
If every team owns a part of the product experience, it means a much bigger change: All teams must then be actively involved in the product processes. The classic “product owner” bottleneck between stakeholders and product development is gone. An integrated process is needed, involving teams and individuals in the product development process when it is needed. The different teams can independently compile and write user stories. Cross-functional project teams can also be an approach in this direction, but here the entire product development process has to be modeled: from brainstorming through product rollout to subsequent success analysis and optimization.
4. The new role of the initial product team: Holistic viewer, guide & enabler
The question that I often hear at this point is: What is the role of product manager / owner in such an organization? The answer is simple: the role changes drastically. Instead of standing as an intermediary and gatekeeper between the development and all others, he/she must promote collaboration of all teams. He/she must guide the various teams to be part of the product processes. And he/she has to have a much more holistic view of the product experience and pursue the ‘central theme’ in the product. After all, a product will only be successful if all components are coordinated and efficiently integrated.
5. The new profile of the initial product team: ‘your company in a nutshell’
This new role also creates a new profile for the product team. In the past, particular emphasis was placed on the technical qualifications to “manage product development processes” and “translate needs into product requirements”. Of course, this qualification is no less important, but the Shared Product Mindset also requires the team to cover the professional areas of the company as widely as possible: a diversified product team ideally is composed of people with background of all other areas within the organization.
6. There is more to innovation than meets the eye
Unfortunately, innovation is misunderstood in many companies. People are often only looking for the “next big thing”, the needle in a haystack. Innovation is more than that. Innovation comes from the latin words “novus” and “innovatio” and means “newness”. According to this, innovation in the context of a business is a new idea that is exploited commercially. And since novelty can only ever be considered in the context of the organization, all ideas, all changes in an organization are an innovation. Sometimes more radical, sometimes incremental. Sometimes in terms of products, sometimes processes, sometimes services. When you apply this definition of innovation, it becomes clear that becoming an innovation-driven organization means becoming an idea-driven organization.
7. A Shared Product Mindset requires a shared vision
This basic principle should actually never be up for debate in any organization. Nevertheless, it is important to push this point once again: only if all colleagues in the organization know the vision and the strategy, and they are also able to have a say in it, is there a chance to develop successful and integrated products. Everything else only leads to an uncoordinated product platform in which the individual parts may make sense, but the platform as a whole is not as satisfiable for the user base.
8. It is an ever chaning culture based on transparency, responsibility and enablement
Last but not least, the transition of a company will never be complete, as the word “transition” mistakenly suggests. On the basis of values such as transparency, responsibility and enablement, an organization must constantly renew itself and react to a changed environment. What is a competitive advantage today can be antiquated tomorrow.
The Shared Product Mindset is, of course, only one next step in agile transition. There are disruptive aspirations in every area of an organization that will fundamentally change the nature of an organization. So a dogmatic implementation of single concepts such as the ‘Shared Product Mindset’ is nevereffective.
Every organization is different and has a different situation that needs to be considered. There is no how-to or step-by-step guide, but as long as you follow the basic principles, any change in an organization is usually one change for the better.