Old World, New World: From Projects to Products, and More.

There’s a major new ethos emerging that is going to disrupt a lot of organisations (and careers), with regards to the delivery of systems and services: moving from being project centric to product centric.

Just to be clear, “Product” in this context refers to the processes and disciplines related to the development and delivery of products – not the purchasing or acquisition of existing products from someone else.

The purpose of this post is simply to get some basics information out to you, so that you can start to do your own research and thinking (mainly because I’m also going through that process myself) about what being product centric means.  On a related note, I’m going to write a Solution Architecture Handbook based on my experience, because there’s a real lack of good information out there about that; in preparing for that I’m increasingly seeing a major transition between two worlds – of which the project/product centricity is one aspect.

Old World / New World: Some Definitions

Let’s start with the “what”, as that will provide a point of reference. Here’s my current view of things that often typify the old and new worlds – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this:

Old World New World
Projects Products
  • Project teams and Support Teams (Throwing things over the fence)
  • IT and Business
Holistic Product Teams
Waterfall, Agile (Underground) Agile (Mainstream), Continuous Delivery, DevOps
Big Upfront Design / Architecture Emerging Architecture
Emergence of Digital, Digital Projects Digital as a natural blended element
Software and Infrastructure Infrastructure as Code

Obviously some big labels there – massive over simplification – and the intent is not to define any false dichotomies as things aren’t always so binary; additionally, I’m not trying to suggest that these are collectively mutually exclusive, for example, being project-based doesn’t preclude you from doing continuous delivery.

Some other factors to consider are the increasing maturity and pervasiveness of:

  1. Automation, specifically regarding development and deployment pipelines.
  2. Cloud-based platforms and offerings.
  3. Open source.

Unknown to me until very recently, Joshua J. Arnold arrived at a similar place (back in 2016 – the last point in the table below is credited to Maria Alfredeen – details in the linked content), although my understanding is that he’s orientated along product-thinking lines:

Plan Forecast
Resources Teams
Push Pull
Requirements Experiments
Projects Initiatives
Dates Cost of Delay
Big risky releases Continuous Delivery

So What?

Firstly, the emergence of “Product” as an ethos for delivery (and more) feels to me a lot like how the emergence of Agile felt back in the day (circa 2000-2005).  Something that significant is definitely something you want to be aware of – not just in terms of how you or your organisation may want to work, but also in terms of skills and experience you may want to acquire.

As I learn more about product-based thinking, I find that knowledge tends to fit well with my knowledge of Agile – they are compatible.  Then, as I work with various teams and organisations, I’m increasingly seeing situations where product oriented thinking appears to be desirable, feasible and viable.  For organisations already working somewhat successfully with Agile but in a project context I think the introduction of product thinking may help them further evolve.  For organisations not even at that stage it might be that product thinking helps them evolve faster or by a more direct route, even if the first step is to break down the IT / Business divide; or, it paints a bigger and more strategic picture for them rather than simply a transformation that is delivery focused.

What Do You Think? / Further Reading

Do you agree with my broad definitions of what often typifies the old and new worlds?

Are you seeing a similar transformation in a community, team or organisation that you’re a part of?

For anyone wanting to start exploring the world of product, Mind the Product run a comprehensive network of meet-ups, globally.  I’m a semi-regular participant of their Wellington events, which I have posted about previously (see: Customer Inspired; Technology Enabled – Product Tank Wellington MeetUp with Marty Cagan and Fireside Chat with Zheng Li, VP of Product @ Raygun – Product Tank Wellington MeetUp).

Advertisements