08 May 2024

Successfully Transitioning from Project to Product Delivery: Five Key Strategies

How and why product-based paradigms drive valuable outcomes for organizations.

Jono Sosulska
Jono Sosulska Vice President of Product LinkedIn
Sara Thomas
Sara Thomas CEO & Founder at AWL Strategies - All Women Leadership, LLC LinkedIn

In an era of perpetual change, U.S. government leaders are tasked with complex, large-scale change missions that are compounding faster than ever before. Think IT modernization, digital transformation, customer experience (CX), employee experience (EX), reorganization, supply chain, financial management, cloud, cyber, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA). These complex change programs require people to adopt new behaviors and skills while continuing to execute effectively in their day-to-day work.

Meanwhile, change fatigue, decreased attention spans, and a proliferation of disparate project-focused communications make it difficult to move to a shared strategy. It becomes difficult to answer the question, “What are we working on and why?” To accelerate progress and innovation, organizations are increasingly shifting from a project to a product-based model.

Making The Shift

The shift from a project to product model represents a fundamental reorganization of how teams are structured and work gets accomplished. In a project model, teams are formed temporarily around specific projects or initiatives, with knowledge fragmented across multiple silos. No single team fully owns the entire product lifecycle.

A product model establishes long-lived teams that own and are accountable for all the resources needed to deliver the product, as well as expertise about the product’s design and applicability to any given customer or market. The product model focuses on continuous improvement rather than checking off tasks, provides clearer ownership and accountability, prevents silos, enhances agility, and allows companies to keep pace with digital transformation.

Five Strategies for Leading the Change to Product Delivery

  1. Start with your stakeholders

    Achieving real transformational change requires building a critical mass of advocates and adopters early on. This is best enabled through an organizational change management (OCM) plan that identifies and overcomes resistance to change. In parallel, strategic communications that convey a clear vision, rationale, and benefits of the changes are essential to generate excitement and buy-in across the organization. By proactively managing human dynamics through OCM and communications, you can successfully, consistently, and quickly deliver outcomes across a distributed organization.

  2. Empower teams to call out challenges

    Those closest to the processes, products, and customer deliverables have the best vantage point to identify bottlenecks and improvement opportunities. Empowering existing owners to voice their challenges and pain points freely, then engaging them cross-functionally to design streamlined solutions, leverages their unique expertise. This visible, collaborative approach generates more pragmatic outcomes tailored to real needs rather than top-down edicts.

  3. Develop and communicate a shared language

    Moving forward together requires a shared language and agreed-upon key performance indicators (KPIs) to clarify organizational priorities and their desired outcomes. When all stakeholders, from internal teams to partners across the agency, are reading from the same page and speaking the same language of change, transformation moves faster. Include language that facilitates transparency and honesty about the pain points teams face in execution.

  4. Remove barriers to people, processes and technology

    Often a reset is required on antiquated or suboptimal elements to accelerate product improvement. This involves making an objective assessment of an organization’s processes, policies, systems, and structures to identify what is hindering delivering valuable outcomes and needs to change.

  5. Enable rapid, secure delivery of outcomes, across any tech stack

    Security cannot be an afterthought — it must be built-in across the entire software lifecycle. Modern software development goes beyond continuous improvement/continuous delivery (CI/CD), encompassing a wide range of practices and components. Consider the entire ecosystem, including SaaS solutions, third-party libraries, and other external dependencies. Train the entire organization in practices to improve resilience like threat modeling their workloads and effectively managing their SaaS utilization and growth. Taking a comprehensive approach that extends beyond CI/CD better addresses security challenges and supports a more robust and secure software development lifecycle. This holistic approach protects applications regardless of delivery model while still facilitating the agility needed for rapid innovation.

A Brighter Future

Envision an organization with a clearly defined mission and vision. Priorities and functions are crystal clear. There is a shared roadmap. Cross-functional teams work in lockstep to channel their resources effectively. Clear guidelines and expectations exist for rapidly innovating solutions to problems. The right stakeholders are engaged at the right time through structured collaboration, eliminating duplicative effort, conflicting priorities, and silos. Teams are empowered to address challenges immediately and execute change quickly to deliver agreed-upon outcomes.

The opportunity to reshape how we work, deliver, and inspire has never been greater. But it won’t happen through top-down mandates. It requires commitment from impassioned staff at all levels. Are you ready to make a shift? Give us a shout to discuss how you can embrace a more connected, collaborative, and empowering way of operating. We’d love to help.

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss this topic in more detail, feel free to contact us and we would be happy to schedule some time to chat about how Aquia can help you and your organization.


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