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By Phil Zeringue, Chief Innovation Officer and VP of PMO & Utility

 

Every project and dollar spent on every project should add value. Seems straightforward, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, a significant portion of the functionality delivered by IT is underused – worse, some of it is unwanted and ultimately requires re-work. Queue product management! With product management you can:

  • Align IT as a strategic lever for business goals;
  • Deliver more value for less time and less spend;
  • Make the most effective use of your resources;
  • Provide a more coherent IT roadmap and strategy;
  • Reduce waste on project spend;
  • Align with the business on priorities;
  • Simplify the management of the project portfolio;
  • Easily align to Agile methodologies; and
  • Improve the focus and efficacy of Enterprise Architecture.

Product management makes sense… but what exactly is an IT product?
An IT product is a logical grouping of IT systems that serve a common business function. For example, a mobility strategy is very IT centric. However, a digitally enabled field/floor worker is a product that means something.

Have you ever had a business partner be dissatisfied with their technology but unable to provide requiremets on what they want? With an IT product it is possible to develop a “day in the life” vision for someone using the product. This vision better enables the business to understand what they need from technology and IT can break the needs into projects.

 

Traits of an IT Product
Logical GroupingA logical grouping of IT systems that support a business outcome. Examples:

  • Digitally enabled field/floor worker
  • System/equipment reliability
  • Customer-facing solutions
  • Productivity tools
Day in the Life NarrativeA day in the life narrative vision inspires how a role will improve with technology (investment in the product line).
Product ManagerThe product manager understands the business needs while knowing enough about what is possible with IT to drive conversations and the direction of the product.
Product RoadmapThe product roadmap is a prioritized list of the most important business functionality delivered and the corresponding IT projects list and cost that go with it.
Architect StakeholderThe architect stakeholder champions the technical specs in the project scope decisions that are consistent with the roadmap for the product.
Regular ReviewalAn IT product is reviewed on a regular cadence with stakeholders (business subject matter experts, product managers, IT architects, and leadership sponsors) to update the vision and delivery priorities.

 

Making the shift to product management can dramatically improve how your business and IT groups view and accomplish projects. For the best results, I recommend following these pivotal do’s and don’ts.

 

Do This!

  • Have business subject matter experts (SMEs) write the vision for the product with support from IT on the art of the possible.
  • Prioritize the products against themselves with senior leaders in the business.
  • Prioritize the functions within a product with business SMEs.
  • Only then prioritize the IT projects to align them to products and their prioritized functions.
  • Make sure 90%+ of IT systems fall within a product.
  • Leverage obsolescence/security required upgrades to further the product roadmap.

 

Don’t Do This!

  • Create products that are IT centric and do not relate intuitively to the business (mobility, data analytics, cloud, etc.). These should be done as part of the product roadmap.
  • Create a catch-all product with no coherent vision just to get systems into a product bucket.
  • Work on too many significant products at once. Rather, be very targeted on the areas of the business that will get significant improvements and change management, then allow to stabilize when moving on to the next product.
    • Example: Spend 2 years modernizing technology used by field or floor workers, in year 3 move on to business systems or customer/consumer facing systems, etc.
  • Spend any significant money on projects that don’t tie to a product roadmap.
  • Replace systems like for like because they are out of support.

Curious about how Product Management can improve your organization? Reach out to our experts today!