When selling any change, the first question you have to answer for the person you are trying to convince is “What’s in it for me?” Moving from projects to products alarms the CFO and stakeholders, because they lose the iron triangle “contract” of agreed time, scope, and budget. Putting aside the poor track record of conventional project management in software development, a product based approach changes the game to deliver the right outcomes faster.
Budget. The good news here is that the annual cost of a product is quite predictable – it is essentially the cost of fielding a fixed team or teams. Monthly costs are steady and there are no surprise charges or even the potential for overruns during the year. The reality is that whatever budget gets approved for a project, the CFO probably won’t allow enough people to be hired to fully staff all projects.
Scope. Given that a product is capacity constrained the stakeholder can only get a certain amount of work out of the team. They might have imagined a broad scope and lots of features, but now they need to prioritize what they want the team to do next. The product road map is a series of things to be done, each of which delivers value to the stakeholder. They can’t get everything in a fixed period of time, but they can choose the order the work gets done. This means that the most valuable work gets done first and starts delivering value earlier than a classic project. It also means that all the “nice to haves” in the original scope go to the end of the backlog and may never be built, because they weren’t that important in the first place.
Time. Just as the stakeholder can’t control how fast things get delivered, they can’t control when they will get all the functionality they put on the backlog. They can define the order they get it as noted above AND they can change their mind! Project management puts a premium on sticking to the plan and stringent change control processes to discourage alterations. With the product model, the stakeholder can rearrange any items on the product road map that haven’t been started and even slip in something new. The ability to reprioritize can save the stakeholder’s career, by allowing fast response to a move by a competitor or a better understanding of the problem being solved.
The stakeholder may lose the “guarantee” of the iron triangle, but they gain more control and ability to fine tune the effort. The product model allows this in the real world of limited resources and constant change.
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