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As business becomes more technologically intensive, IT is not only the empowering backbone, but if properly constructed, also functions as a lever for competitive edge.

Digital business requires holistic organizational change management to foster an organizational mindset that reflects a culture of valuing end-user experience and customer delight. Instilling a product-centric approach to replace an outmoded project-centric paradigm helps align IT organizational structure with product-centric roles and fortify the business partnership. This can help create new business models with innovative products and services and expand business through greater digital opportunities.

A product-centric approach to app development and continuous refinement is about ensuring a strong IT-business partnership, operating with an organizational structure that involves product-centric roles and establishing an engineering culture that enables differentiation from traditional project-centric organizations (see accompanying figure).

Figure 1

Transforming into a product-centric IT organization requires a systematic approach. Here is a set of flexible, customizable plays to instill product-centricity in an IT organization:

Preliminary move

Play 0: Set up a CXO-level steering committee. This committee, established to drive product-centricity, should be one of the top-priority operational capabilities in your organization.

Identify business capabilities

Play 1: Identify capabilities, product lines and products. Identify business capabilities, prioritize them and map them to product lines. Then identify products under each product line. Apply key validation questions for each capability, such as technology required, ROI, context and purpose, and how it works and provides services.

Align and enable people

Play 2: Strengthen the business-IT partnership. Ultimately, shift funding from a project level to a capability or product level, and transition IT from an enabling function to a coequal strategic force of digital business enhancement.

Play 3: Identify, define and initiate product-centric roles. Identify needed roles such as capability leader, product manager, engineering manager, Agile coach and DevOps architect.

Play 4: Align IT organizational structure. Product-centric organizations require a structure that provides clear ownership and a reporting hierarchy based on budget alignment. Identify a leader per business capability whose team consists of product line directors and product owners, each of whom would have a team of 10 – 15 members.

Play 5: Start enablement programs and build a product-centric culture. Institutionalize enablement programs for all product-centric roles; this is essential to operate and enhance team performance. It is imperative to identify skills that are required for different roles.

Play 6: Establish and nurture communities of practice. These will serve to connect groups of related professionals performing a specific role or adopting the new ways of working. Communities of practice create an opportunity for members to build sustained relationships, engage in working together, share information, solve problems together, learn from one another and boost the sense of belonging in a professional ecosystem.

Review and refine processes and tools

Play 7: Strengthen Agile-DevOps adoption/transformation. This will serve to ensure continuous delivery. Assess the current state of maturity of your Agile and DevOps teams, and adopt a wave-based approach by introducing continuous delivery in each wave, covering a set of related products and teams.

Play 8: Infuse Lean Startup principles. This popular movement transforms the way teams build and launch products. It is aimed at rapid product delivery and continuous innovation.

Play 9: Embrace Lean, product-centric budgeting. Shift from project-based budgeting to product-based budgeting, and allocate budgets to product teams. Adopt a Lean approach to make it flexible so that at periodic intervals budget reviews with the CXO-level steering committee can channel funding to the right product lines and products based on business priorities.

Play 10: Promote engineering excellence and adopt supportive tools. This play is vital to deliver high-quality software products with minimal technical debt. It requires consistent implementation of Agile requirements engineering, Agile architecture, collective code ownership, pair programming, refactoring, test-driven development, continuous integration/delivery and release management.

Play 11: Value customer-centricity. Define and implement customer-centric processes and techniques such as continuous collaboration, customer journey mapping, design thinking, customer feedback and insights, and data analytics. Build customer-focused leadership and culture at all levels. Apply design thinking to understand and design customer experiences. Collect metrics that matter and empower the front line to reflect the voice of the customer. Through feedback, drive continuous improvement.

Invest in modern platforms

Play 12: Embrace cloud engineering and build a modern infrastructure. This helps reduce CapEx and enables you to gain speed in IT operational areas such as provisioning, release management and scaling. Pay off legacy infrastructure debt related to suboptimal server utilization, provisioning and release management overheads.

Play 13: Adopt microservices and cloud-native development. Apply Agile-DevOps and Lean Startup principles when you initiate microservices architectures and cloud-native development. Identify and start with one or two pilot projects. Measure impacts, conduct team retrospectives and practice continuous improvement. Next, identify additional projects.

Play 14: Implement capability-led application transformation. Assessing legacy IT applications and categorizing them using application portfolio rationalization (APR) techniques such as 6R Analysis (rehost, replatform, refactor, rewrite, retain and retire) is key for deciding how to onboard them to a cloud infrastructure.

Play 15: Align enterprise DevOps and enterprise architecture. Adoption of cloud engineering, microservices architecture and cloud-native development requires an upgrade, thorough review and alignment of your strategy on enterprise DevOps and enterprise architecture. Establish a core group to review and upgrade these on an ongoing basis at least once a quarter.

Play 16: Invest in innovation labs and knowledge management. This is a way to learn emerging technologies and platforms, and innovate to ensure speed-of-adoption for efficient product delivery. Knowledge management becomes a backbone that enhances knowledge retention and sharing through knowledge artifacts, software assets and IP.

To find out more about this sequence of plays, read our white paper, “17 Must-Do’s to Create a Product-Centric IT Organization,” visit our Digital Business Practice page, or contact us.