A new survey into digital effectiveness has unveiled that top performing businesses are changing their approach to creating digital platforms and common behaviours are characterised by an emerging mindset termed ‘product thinking’.
It has also highlighted that there is still a gap between businesses knowing what the right way is to meet the needs of today’s digitally-empowered consumer and actually doing it.
As the battle to deliver highly effective digital products and platforms continues apace, to not only stay in business but to strive to stay ahead of the competition, we have seen an adoption of a new business philosophy among enterprises that are thriving the most – a ‘product thinking’ mindset that encompasses how organisations are aligning their resources, people and process around their digital products.
Product thinking is a way in which organisations are navigating through the tension that is naturally created by the need to deliver increased consumer-centricity and agility, but with larger, more complex business-critical technology platforms.
In a nutshell, they are managing their digital customer touchpoints like software products, akin to someone like Adobe, with an evolutionary roadmap, whose success is based on better meeting the needs of its ever-evolving user base.
As an agency, we have adopted a product approach to be more effective in our client partnerships and, importantly, to enable clients to spend their money more effectively. Since taking this approach, we have experienced huge differences in levels of understanding and acceptance of new methodologies. Our study was designed to explore further the industry’s current attitudes, beliefs and digital practices; delving deeper into the barriers for delivering effective solutions.
What is ‘product thinking’?
At its very simplest, product thinking is a drive for business effectiveness by maximising value from digital touchpoints. It enables organisations to prioritise their efforts more effectively, and immediately correlate investment with commercial return.
In doing so, the organisation should achieve its desired business outcomes more quickly, while delivering more value for the end customer. Internally, this will be achieved with reduced operational ‘waste’ and an improved consumer-centric mindset, which connects teams and individuals with a collective sense of purpose.
In that regard, product thinking is in fact a cultural model, as it pertains to a mindset, methodologies, roles and organisational design.
In terms of practitioner disciplines and methodologies, product thinking brings together human-centred design, modern engineering and lean delivery, unified in an approach based on continually growing the value returned to the business by a product or platform, by better meeting the needs of its users.
Its pillars are:
- Doing the right thing: with a clear framework for decisions, human-centred design and focus on outcomes.
- Doing the thing right: using lean delivery practices to build, measure and learn, releasing early and often with continual insight-driven iteration and refinement, and applying modern engineering principles such as decoupled architecture, test-driven development and continuous deployment.
- Doing it together: removing the silos of an organisation for speed and effectiveness; aligning the entire culture towards shared goals and metrics, with autonomy in teams to find the best way forward.
Adopting a higher level of product thinking behaviours
The report demonstrates some of the differences in mindset between respondents that are outperforming or performing well and those that are not. Top performers are more likely to be looking to increase customer lifetime value than their mainstream counterparts (68% vs 47%). Similarly, they are aiming to speed up their performance (50% vs 38%), improve the integration of the business (49% vs 30%), achieve defined deliverables (46% vs 27%) and develop internal knowledge and capabilities (40% vs 27%).
Taken together, these aims reflect the product thinking approach, a mindset based on continually building value for the customer through an agile, non-siloed, digitally-savvy culture with clearly defined business goals.
This is further emphasised by those respondents ‘strongly’ agreeing with the statements:
- We focus on outcomes in development and are happy to change requirements if needed (30% of top performers vs 15% of mainstream);
- We can attribute return on investment to specific digital projects (21% vs 8%);
- We should strive to place value to the work we do before we invest in it (58% vs 38%).
It is clear that there is consensus within the industry that consumer centricity is paramount. Eighty-two per cent of high performers and even 76% of the rest agree strongly with the statement “Focusing on user needs leads to better business outcomes”.
When asked about what was happening within their organisation, 77% of top performers agree strongly or somewhat with the statement that they put user needs at the heart of their development. Only 53% of the mainstream businesses do this.
Attitudes to ongoing testing and agility also separate the two groups. For successful businesses, a focus on outcomes in delivery (75%) and a focus on long-term goals versus short-term targets (59%) are almost twice as prevalent as in underperforming businesses. Sixty-nine per cent of the top performers also adopt agile processes in development.
Finally, 60% of top performers are satisfied with their ability to deliver digital products on time and on budget, compared to only 19% of the mainstream.
We are undoubtedly in a period of huge change and the pace of this change means that companies cannot afford to develop products or projects in the traditional ways. Our report has emphasised that businesses that have adopted core elements of product thinking believe that their approach is paying dividends.
Collectively, we have an understanding of what we need to do to achieve success in today’s challenging times – but the key differentiator is the ‘doing’. As businesses move from the more traditional ways of working to the agile, adaptable approaches required for the 21st century, they come up against deeply ingrained structural and cultural barriers.
Ultimately, product thinking is a cultural model that pertains not only to a mindset – a collective drive for effectiveness by continually growing value for the customer and company – but also the methodologies, roles and organisational design required to see the approach through.
Tony Foggett is CEO at Code Computerlove
To read more about the survey findings and product thinking visit www.codecomputerlove.com/product-thinking