We have become increasingly good at building products. Agile, DevOps, Lean Startup methodologies have reduced the time to market and the complexity of deploying a new set of features, while improving the quality and shortening the feedback loop with customers.
Armed with these methodologies, product managers can ideate, design and build products in shorter times, deploy them in the marketplace, and collect feedback from customers. In return, they deliver lower risk and higher return of investment to their companies.
The ultimate goal of building a product should be to deliver value to the customer or end-user. Yet, teams and organizations often focus all the energy on launching a product in the market, and this is often reflected in corporate cultures where the product managers are awarded bonuses or promotions based on launched products. When companies focus on deploying products they focus on output. It’s the old manufacturing process of getting widgets out of the production line as quickly as possible.
I call this problem the Delivery Gap.
There is a delivery gap between deploying a product in the market and delivering value to the customer. This gap manifests itself in several ways, including poorly executed product launches, products that fail to win the marketplace, and products that once deployed show a high level of problems that the business then struggles to fix.
I experienced this first-hand when supporting a project for a bank in the US. After realizing it was a late comer to the mobile banking revolution, the bank invested a ton of money in developing and finally launching a long-awaited mobile app for its customers. The app allowed them to manage their bank account and included features like depositing a check by taking a picture of it. It was celebrated as a success, and the product manager got a promotion shortly after launching it.
No one thought about measuring the performance of the app and evaluating its real benefit. Only about a year after it was launched, the company discovered that the app had a failure rate of 15%. This caused the app to crash 15 times every 100 customers. Because there was no measurement of performance and no feedback loop with customers, nobody had known this. It was a major blow to the reputation of the company, and the team had to scramble to fix it. Yet, the product manager kept enjoying his promotion.
In order to deliver value to the customers and in return generate real value for the business, the organization should focus on delivery, not deployment. It should focus on outcomes (for the customers, for the business), not on output. It should create a culture where cranking out products as quickly as possible is replaced with measuring outcomes and real value delivered to the customer.
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Written by: Valerio Zanini