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Embracing a Product over Project Mindset


The shift from a project to a product mindset

There’s a growing trend for companies to embrace a product over a project mindset. We at Devoteam want to explore why this is and what it means for the companies that dare to embrace the change.

So what exactly is a product mindset?

A product mindset starts by identifying, understanding and prioritizing the problems faced by your customers. With a product mindset, a company becomes more focused on the end product (solving problems) and less focused on the steps needed to get there. Instead of focusing on timelines and dates, the company focuses all attention on the outcome. 

The product mindset is quite a shift in thinking for many teams because we’re so used to the project mindset with rigid deadlines, budgets and outputs. Switching over to a product mindset can be uncomfortable as structured timelines and schedules are stripped away, and we don’t always know how to achieve the outcome upfront.

Ok, so we know this all sounds a little bizarre. How can you run a company without clear deadlines, budgets and outputs, and why would you choose to do that?

The benefits of a product mindset

For the companies that have waved goodbye to typical timelines and the rigid restraints of a project timeline, the most significant benefit is that the desired outcome has been reached more efficiently.

Yes, you read that right. When teams focus on creating a product and not delivering a project, they’re more efficient.

This is because (despite best intentions), with every delivery goal, problems arise. 

When a problem arises in a project mindset, the team is instantly focused on the project timeline and how on earth to get back on schedule. We’ve all been to one of these meetings in the past.

In contrast, a product mindset allows the team to adapt to the problem, learn what went wrong and get back to delivering an outcome. Product teams don’t spend any time worrying about deadlines or how they can get back on track. They fix the problem and move on.

In addition to this, when a company is in project mode, it tends to look at individual projects in isolation. The goal is to complete each project as quickly as possible and move on to the next. There’s little thought given to how the projects fit together or how they could be improved.

With a product mindset, a company looks closer at the overall picture. It considers how multiple products could integrate, how they could be improved, product connectivity, and what new features could be added. The goal is to create valuable products that customers will love and want to keep using.

How to embrace the product mindset

A product mindset doesn’t naturally fit all industries. For example, building a house is more suited to a project mindset as it’s a well-rehearsed delivery model. Different trades are needed at other times, and they all know what needs to be done to hit the project milestones, costs and deadlines.

However, as we know, in software development, there is typically no end date to a product, and it continues to evolve with time. This is where a product mindset comes into its own versus a project mindset (typically, projects have an end date).

As a product, the software can be released as soon as it’s at a stage that’s good enough to benefit the customer. At this early stage, it’s unlikely to have a complete feature set, and the initial release will, without doubt, receive feedback from the users. This is never a problem with a product mindset delivery as the team continues to work on the new features and solve user feedback.

When a product mindset is combined with software development approaches such as DevOps and CI/CD, companies can build, test and deliver software faster. In turn, solving the problems faced by customers without having to set up a new project each time to add a new feature or fix a bug.

Conclusion: The shift to a product mindset

The shift from project to product mindset can be seen occurring in companies worldwide. 

When a company has a project mindset, they are often working on one specific project and not thinking about the future. 

In contrast, when a company has a product mindset, they are always looking ahead and trying to develop new products or ways to improve its current products. 

This shift can be difficult as larger companies with subdivisions may struggle to identify all their products straight away. The key here is to start small and move to a product mindset with one product at a time.

It’s essential to remember that the benefits of adopting a product mindset are:

  • Increased delivery efficiency
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Delivery of products that complement or enhance one another
  • It suits software development approaches such as DevOps and CI/CD
  • It encourages teams to adapt, learn and fix any problems encountered during delivery.

To begin your shift to a product mindset, we can help you set up multidisciplinary teams that continuously innovate towards a fully adopted product delivery with our business consulting services.