Digital transformation squared or even cubed

Source: bcg.com

Glad to see that the so-called “Digital Transformation” is becoming something like mainstream. More and more companies realize that they urgently need to adapt to the new reality. It also shows that they start to understand how crucial true customer centricity has become.

So far, so good. Here comes the problem: While many companies are busy with their transformations the world has changed again. It is time to move to “Digital Transformation squared” or even to “Digital Transformation cubed.”

In all of my previous companies we were discussing things like the following:

  • We need to scale agile
  • Our platform is a monolith
  • The dependencies kill us
  • We need to create BI insights closer to the customers/business
  • We need seamless end-to-end customer experience
  • What is the role of Marketing if everything becomes “digital”?
  • Etc. Etc.

While those are busy with catching up with basics, there might be a missed opportunity to leapfrog the competition by addressing the “digital squared” possibilities. I am not saying this is easy. But this is the moment where you need to consider anticipating as much as you can even though you are busy with the current challenges. This is the starting point for serious discussions around

(Product) strategy – (Agile) ways of working – Product delivery

Don’t fool yourself and beware of the race between the hare and the tortoise to succeed…

Starting 2018 as self-employed

On Monday a new year will start. After having learned a lot of things during the last years and being more than ever convinced that customer & business focused product management are vital to the long-term success of technology-driven companies, I am offering my passion and skills to interested companies.

I am open to having this journey end with a long-term exciting position in a company that values this approach and creates the right environment to succeed.

I am looking forward to sharing my insights and experiences here on my blog. And am also looking forward to some energizing & inspiring discussions.

May the journey begin…

 

Importance of innovative technology for your business – really?

Found on LinkedIn

 

 

 

Yesterday I have read this post on LinkedIn talking about the current key technologies. It made me think about the role of “innovation” and Boards asking for the “next big thing”, the “pink rocket capable of flying us to the moon”.

Innovation happens when “invention” comes together with “value creation for customers & business”. This includes product delivery obviously. If any of those two ingredients is missing, innovation becomes meaningless.

If we are talking about key technologies, we tend to neglect that they are pure enablers. To put it more bluntly they are simple toys. From a commercial perspective, the thinking must start from a customer problem. In the majority of cases, there are existing technical solutions to a given customer problem that don’t require “key technology”.

What if some companies just cleaned up their registration flow instead of thinking about virtual reality? What if some CEOs tried to impress their Boards with improved conversion rate numbers instead of showing fancy “pink rockets”?

In most cases what you need to do is much more basic than you expect it to be. And please don’t start with technology, but with a customer problem and your existing product…

 

Product management – the three disciplines

Based on my personal experience I would see three disciplines
for any senior level product professional

  • (Product) Strategy: Is based on the company’s business strategy and gives a long-term guidance on which products & services will build a competitive advantage. Which features will create value for customers and business? The product strategy is based on the company’s current and/or future capabilities.
  • (Agile) Ways of Working: Enables a learning organization based on agile principles and best practice. Makes sure organization builds a sustainable competitive advantage based on its “people platform”.
  • Product Development: Ensures delivery of agreed products & services in scope, on time & on budget

All three disciplines must be addressed together. Also, a good role definition should include aspects of all three. In an ideal world, the surrounding organization would be a mature product company. I have posted about this earlier here.

Consumers aren’t happy with the status quo in Gaming

Yesterday I stumbled upon a blog post on EGR. More specifically please read this:

The core gambling products are relatively unchanged from those offered a century ago so it’s easy to understand why operators are usually resistant to change. But this year we’ve seen rising evidence that consumers are hungry for new products, and that the current way of doing things may not be the best approach.

From a new generation of online casino firms changing what an online casino experience needs to be to Sky Bet changing the very nature of the consumer sports betting offering to PokerStars attempting to reinvent online poker this year has seen no shortage of indicators of what comes next. Sky Bet’s sports betting offering is now led by the RequestABet product it helped bring to market, with more traditional betting markets often side-lined and placed below the scroll.

Mobile is, of course, a major part of this change and products designed not just for the smaller screen and touch navigation but for the new consumer mindset that comes with it will continue to provide growth opportunities for the bold. While the old way of doing things will continue to dominate, and continue to be profitable in the short-term, there is a sense that even more radical approaches may prove a breakthrough in the coming 2-3 years.

It is amazing to what extent the Gaming industry has been able to maintain the status quo. Now the big question is: Who is going to drive the next wave of change? What will build the competitive advantage over others? And this will most likely not be adding more marketing bucks and throwing more bonus money at players.

Someone I spoke to during the last days said it is all about the “people platform” and much less about the technical platform. The ability to tap into customer insight systematically and build relevant products & services fastest will make a difference. And this will need the right people platform. The good thing about this is that it is sustainable. If your organization has learned and keeps learning, the probability that you are going to belong to the winners is increasing massively.

Is your organization up to it?

 

Beyond Design Thinking

Today on Twitter, I stumbled upon the following article: “Beyond Design Thinking” by @kevinmccull.

Interesting to read that the concept of “Design Thinking” might be starting to become out of date. But then I realized that it is increasingly being absorbed within a much more strategic approach “for designers”.

Main learning: don´t believe in buzz words, but find your own way to use frameworks.

My motto is: “Digital Strategy Implementation & Design Thinking”. How about yours?

Five maturity levels of product management in your organization – where do you stand?

prodmaturity

Having learned about maturity levels of supply chain management in organizations during our lectures @HEC, I thought it might be interesting to assess the maturity levels of product management.

  1. The lowest level can be simply described as “Absence of Product Management”. This means, in that company there is not even the function product management. Please keep in mind that we are not talking about product management in a marketing context. We are defining product management as defining and building digital products for customers.
  2. The second lowest level can be described as “Alibi Product Management”. In this type of organization there is at least one Product Manager. But the person is not working as a state of the art Product Manager, but much more as a project manager or coordinator. His/her responsibilities don´t include understanding the needs of users and defining the roadmap of the IT teams. The Product Manager in this organization is of low skill level and is typically driven by decisions of executives and/or shareholders.
  3. Tactical Product Management” is the maturity level or organizations who have installed product management on a tactical level. The responsibility remains with the upper organizational levels of the company, but the Product Managers are enabled to steer product development on a daily basis. A typical characteristic of this type of company would be that the Product Manager has to ask for approval before launching features and for his/her product roadmap from people who are not Product Managers.
  4. Organizations who have established product management on executive level can be named “CPO level Product Management”. Here, the most senior Product Manager is reporting into the CEO and is member of the management team. Product Managers in these organizations are having a sponsor on the highest management level and an enabled product management organization. Please note that having a CPO might be possible without being on this maturity level. Sometimes the job title “CPO” is misleading. Criteria must be an enabled product management organization as described in the three lower levels above.
  5. The most mature level is “Strategic Product Management”. Organizations of this type have a clear product vision and product strategy that have been defined by a Product Manager based on e.g. Design Thinking. A product management organization is supporting the Product Manager on Executive level to deliver products customers will love. The CDO/CPO/VP Product will support the CEO and the CXO suite to align towards this vision and will have major influence on the direction of the company.

Most companies I have seen or I have had interviews with during the last months are on levels 2. and 3. Very few seem to understand the need to establish the product function on CXO level and to see product management as strategic discipline. In the light of the upcoming digital challenges and increasingly changing customer behaviors I consider this as reckless. Without a sufficiently skilled Product Manager on the top of your organization you will fail.

Do business thinking and design ambition meet via MBA?

If you take a look into the different MBA syllabuses you will rarely find content that is related to product management or to design thinking. I have found an interesting article by Sameer Kamat recently here. It talks about content that Product Managers need to learn.

businessmba

An MBA is by its nature a business degree. So it seems to add the “business” side to more design or technology oriented people. I don´t believe this is the complete picture. It must also go the other direction: business thinkers need to reach out to design thinkers. There is a gap between both.

A while ago I have read an article about the usage of brain when working on different tasks. Also the brain activity of highly strategic people have been analyzed. Interestingly those very good at strategic thinking have shown high brain activity in the right hand side brain hemisphere and in the left hand side brain hemisphere. In other words, people good at strategy also use their creativity, emotion and intuition to come to new findings.

I found this really fascinating: if you leave the ground of immediate actions and focus on longer term thinking, you will be the more better the more “intuitive” you get. Listening to users and understanding them is also very intuitive. Anticipating their behaviors of the future is even more highly intuitive.

Business thinking and design ambition meet if both come with a reasonable portion of right hand side brain thinking. Whether a MBA helps this process might depend more on the individual than one might think beforehand. But it is definitely more than a “business blessing” for Product Managers with career ambitions.