Every organization truly wants to deliver quality products that customers love.
They also want to grow/scale and increase revenue or maintain market share!
Quite often they struggle to address the key gaps from culture, strategy, people, process to tech that impacts their ability to scale, grow and increase revenue.
They also then suffer with employee retention and culture issues.
These are organizations that embark on "Agile/Digital Transformations" and then fail. This is where the digital maturity model comes in.
Innovation is tightly locked with an organizations digital maturity and it is part of the culture and strategy across people, process and tech.
In this guide we will look at the digital maturity model and assessment followed by how to unlock innovation and become product led organization.
Digital maturity assessment
In my last few years of consulting and helping organizations 'transform', I created this model and have used it across multiple industries and organization sizes. Literally 16 transformations in 4 years.
It has allowed me to start engagements with a maturity assessment to look at culture, strategy, people, process & tech and then cater my recommendations and advice to the current state of each individual client.
There is no silver bullet, it has to be bespoke
There is literally no silver bullet when it comes to transformation programs, methods and frameworks and no particular framework or method can be applied as a blanket solution as commonly advised by Agile practitioners and practiced by many organizations.
This model has helped me build out a bespoke programs that cater for the current situation of that organization and help them get to where they want to go from a scaling or growth perspective, that is if they have the appetite for disruption.
The model history
I have built this model by working with small organizations, start-ups – scale ups to large enterprises and global companies with different size of budgets ranging from 100k to 100 mil annually by spending the last 3 years on testing it and iterating it.
Each organization is different and the state of which they are in differs which then should change their approach to how they transform.
In some organizations I have found, a culture of mistrust, low employee morale and burnouts with a focus on output by senior leaders instead of outcomes while in others, I found them to have a strategy but struggle with execution.
Sometimes even the glorious 5 year detailed strategies which are visionary and detailed have no way to executed!
This can be easily explained by understanding their current state - such as "oblivious and reactive" organizations have spoken about digital transformation but have no idea where to start or what I like to call "strategyfied" where they have a vision and a program is prepared while leaders are aligned they have no idea how to execute.
Understand the cause to effect relationship
Most often than not, we as humans look at effects and not the causes and try to address the effects instead of the causes.
This is called firefighting.
To address the causes and avoid firefighting all the time a prioritization and decision making framework has to be implemented.
This was covered earlier in the below article.
Below are examples of the most common Effect: Causes relationships, I have seen which you should watch out for and are clear call signs for change.
- A culture of mistrust, low employee morale and burnouts with a focus on outputs by senior leaders instead of outcomes.
- Brand damage, low customer retention and NPS.
- Stuck in the build trap.
- Constant fire fighting & high sunk costs. Non monetized products with potential and potential product market fit. Blown out scope on delivery.
- Low employee engagement.
- Quality issues and lots of bugs.
- Feature sets with no potential are being built.
- Slow growth or stagnated growth.
- Missed delivery dates.
- Sales and marketing led organization focusing on outputs instead of outcomes.
- Poor service design with a lack of focus on customer experience &/or user experience design.
- Delivery teams are created like feature factories delivering low value due to some sort of "agile transformation program" - most often than not Scrum or SAFe implementations.
- No decision and prioritization frameworks determining value.
- Teams of mercenaries with delivery project managers not product managers.
- Low level of quality control in SDLC processes.
- Project based product development with disempowered teams where engineering, product, QA & design functions are outputs instead of inputs. (This is where discovery and problem / opportunity tree mapping comes in.)
- Lack of business modelling, business and product strategy.
- Lack of expectation management and commitment frameworks.
Image below from Melissa Perri's book Escaping The Build Trap
So how do we unlock innovation and become product led?
Prerequisites : Transformation is not rocket science but it requires -
- appetite for change or a serious catalyst for change that forces the appetite
- trust from leadership to the team executing the transformation
- circle of influence for anyone in the team trying to do the transformation
- authority (mandate) to influence the change.
Without these you have a recipe for failure.
Most product managers do not usually have this type of circle of influence, trust or authority but they may actually have the catalyst for change!
While senior roles like Head of Product's can definitely embark on these steps listed below, it's also important to note that it is often easier to bring an outside consultant to do the below disruption than try and embark on the journey as an organization.
Beware this is a whole area where "big" cookie cutter consultancies aim to make money and their goal is to bill you so they will make it as complex as possible and make it sound impossible.
If you do want to influence this change, this is where product coaches come in.
Step 1 : Start with a business, product and portfolio strategy
To build out a business and product strategy, instead of business case and planning, start doing business or product models. This will help create a product vision and strategy that is product led.
If you have multiple product lines then work on a product portfolio strategy, this will allow for clear direction from leaders to individual contributors.
Method - Business and product canvases
There are a few types of canvases and templates here to start this off, and I will shortly share my templated format for this and then update this guide in the coming weeks.
The key is to define the target market, target audience, business channels, value streams, unique value proposition, processes, key objectives, initiatives and then work on organization structure definition.
An product strategy canvas template example from Mohan Sawhney below
Step 2: Work on alignment of leaders, organizational redesign and guiding principles.
Embark in a formal and structured approach to organizational redesign through work shopping with key department heads looking at cross functional teams across operations, product, design, marketing, growth, sales & delivery.
Alignment is key.
If the senior leaders of an organization are not aligned and in sync it will result in mass chaos.
Start with alignment.
Method - People, process and technology
🤔 As the most valuable asset in any organization this should be the starting point for any transformation. Sadly, I have seen many transformation programs that do tech first and address people last .
- The fluff is important - Starting with definition of vision and alignment of strategy while defining guiding principles (see article link below).
- Core competency analysis - This should be followed by impact analysis on key functional units and departments to look at identifying the skills & capabilities required to function a product-led business.
- Listen & learn: Interview key staff and focus groups and understand the key challenges and pain points within the organization.
- Redesign - Identify the skills currently that exist across departments and redesign the departments & roles required.
- Core competency decisions - Determine if upskilling current function or building cross functional teams is more feasible. Maybe having matrix functions with a few cross functional teams is optimal for your budget and stage of growth.
- Review Talent strategy - Start hiring teams of missionaries not mercenaries. Build out a feasible talent strategy for growth with interns & graduates. Invest in an associate product management program. (see link below)
- Empowerment of teams - Empower the engineering, product, QA & UX functions and treat them as inputs instead of outputs by providing them delegation of authority to make decisions and be accountable for them.
- Hiring refresh - Stop hiring waterfall roles of Business Analyst, Product Owner, Scrum Master & Project Managers!
Hire Product Managers, Technical Leads, Product Designers and Product Marketing Managers.
Important: Hire the holy trinity of Tech lead Product Manager and Product Designer for each product segment if possible.
- Optics & culture Refresh - As part of the org redesign, look at ways to improve office culture and work environments along with executive coaching to ensure alignment in communication to all levels of the organization.
This section is very subjective to current state of tech of an organization however below are the most common steps
- Service design - Review the service design across the business & platforms. Consider requirements required to build SaaS based products. Consider the customer journey and business processes required before making key architectural changes.
- Decouple the architecture - As part of reducing dependencies, improving performance, availability and improve the speed of delivery and reduce technical debt allowing the teams to pivot fast, decouple. Whether the organization decides to go with microservices cloud native architecture or serverless it should consider feasibility and viability.
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