What are the 7 Ts of Product-Led Transformation?
$1.78 trillion was spent on transformation programs in 2021. Digital transformation alone does not deliver the expected return on investment. The evidence shows that Product-Led organisations yield better financial results.
Transformation Programs incur significant costs. According to the CIO magazine, Global spending on digital transformation technologies and services was $1.3 trillion in 2020. In 2021, that spend grew to $1.78 trillion. According to HBR, 70% of that spend is wasted. $1.2 Trillion wasted in a single year. And, investments in digital transformations is forecasted to rise to $7 trillion globally by 2023.
Why does Product-Led mean?
Product-Led Transformation is more holistic than other Transformations because it begins with the customer.
The outcome of a Product-Led Transformation is a company that is aligned first and foremost towards discovering and quantifying customer problems before designing solutions. It is about changing established mindsets and practices to ensure that organisations stops throwing random features into their product mix, and hoping that somehow the good will emerge.
Product-Led Transformation re-focuses the company on the fundamentals of real value creation while embracing the benefits of the faster engines that Digital and Agile practices deliver.
One of the key differences between a Digital Transformation and a Product-Led Transformation is that Product-Led Transformation focuses on introducing:
1. Better, more holistic Product Management practices, and
2. More strategic, effective Product Management roles.
What often happens after the implementation of a Digital Transformation program is that leaders continue to frame their plans as a series of features, instead of ‘problem’ or ‘outcome-driven’ plans. This leads to two commonly seen challenges:
1. The organisation succeeds in feature delivery, but not necessarily customer-value delivery.
2. They become good at ‘building the thing’, but are not asking ‘is this the right thing to build?’
Teams are so focused on delivering features that they become mere order-takers, who are not entrusted to focus on tackling the real problems and delivering the right solutions.
This is not to argue that Digital Transformations aren’t valuable. In principle, they are worthwhile, but often these programs run for far too long, and at the same time don’t go far enough. The intent is to improve the organization, but the practice doesn’t allow the right teams to participate, and provide their insights as to the best ways to deliver value to the organisation, as well as to customers.
Product-Led Transformation builds on the Digital Transformation mindset but provides additional capacity and tools to convince an organization’s leaders to let go of dictating what gets built.
Product-Led Transformation teams do not start by focusing on delivering features. They start by focusing on solving problems, which ultimately delivers more genuine customer and business value.
What are the 7 Ts of Product-Led Transformation?
The 7 Ts of Product-Led Transformation is a comprehensive framework using modern Product Management concepts and techniques.
It embraces both the functional aspects of delivering and scaling products as well as the adaptive capabilities required to evolve mindsets and behaviours in companies.
The 7 Ts isn’t a simple checklist but is intended to facilitate deep thought and action. They have been developed to ignite our thinking and to ensure that Product concepts and principles are included in any type of change process.
1 – Triggers
How do you take action from the definitive market signals that require the organisation to transform its current way of operating?
Transformation is a necessary process in all organisations because technology and marketplaces are moving at an ever-increasing pace. It is no surprise that organizations have to keep up or perish.
As product people, our role is to pay attention to internal and external triggers that may disrupt the way our organisation competes. More often than not, there are multiple triggers that indicate that we need to make a change in the way we interact and deliver value to the market.
As product people, once we’ve identified the triggers, we have to deliberately prepare our response with a Portfolio or Product Vision and an implementable strategy, in order to galvanise the organization with a convincing purpose for the necessary changes.
2 – Tactics
What does success look like? How do organizations that are “Product-Led” operate?
Before embarking on a Product-Led Transformation, we need to know what success looks like.
What are we striving to achieve in our ‘Target State’?
We can fast-track our knowledge here by studying how organizations that are already product-led operate.
How do they structure their teams? How do they work to align all functions around a common way of making decisions? What “Tactics” do they use?
3 – Timeline
How can you craft a timeline for a Product-Led Transformation with achievable milestones and metrics to measure and guide the team to success?
It is difficult not to consider transformation as a large, onerous project. The word “transformation” itself suggests that a significant effect is going to be needed.
But, the Product-Led Transformation approach should be an experimental, iterative, meaningful course of action, leading towards a lasting, impactful way of operating.
Transformation does not need to be a big project but it does need to make a big impact (and rightly so).
Engineering the timeline for a Product-Led Program should reduce the change fatigue that often sets in during any large change initiatives. Embedding the concept of adaptability and accomplishments through experiments and celebratory milestones should keep the program energised.
Change is uncomfortable and for most people, threatening, but for change to occur, there needs to be a sense of urgency to propel people to transition from their current state to a new, better way of operating.
We need to apply positive pressure and that according to Kotter, requires CEOs to communicate the vision by a factor of ten.
4 – Talent
How can we assess whether we have the capability to deliver on the promise of transformation and identify and recruit the right people with the skills we lack?
During any transformation effort, it is common to get caught up in the technology. New tools, new systems, new infrastructure all promise to fundamentally change the organisation.
But you can’t transform without people.
Technology is the enabler that provides people with the tools to transform organisations.
When leaders think about investing in technology, they should first think about investing in the people who can make that technology useful.
The only way to transform is to identify and hire the right people with the right attitudes and skills and put them in the right seats.
5 – Tell Tales
How can you tell if you are on-track or off-track in your transformation journey? What are the common pitfalls where it can go wrong?
Tell-Tales are the indicators that let us know if out transformation journey is going to plan.
Not all things go to plan. Our journey can go off-track.
It is important to know be able to recognize those signs and to know what to do to get back on-track.
One way to reduce the risk of failure is to learn from other organisations who have been on this journey before us. The aim should be to help key stakeholders in your organisation to have realistic expectations about transformation and the process of transforming.
The old adage ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ really applies when the organisation is embarking on a transformation program. It is without a doubt, a significant expenditure and while mishaps will occur, we should try to avoid failure if possible.
There are common pitfalls in a product-led transformation. Let’s identify them ahead of time and create a prevention and mitigation strategy.
6 – Transition
How can you navigate the transformation transition period to your teams to maintain their drive and commitment?
Change is perhaps the hardest part of any transformation program. Like all journeys, all programs begin with anticipation and a flurry of activity, but after a few heady weeks, it can feel like nothing has happened.
Unfortunately, the change process itself takes time. Important changes generally cannot be completed overnight. This means that the deliverables and the long term benefits described in the transformation program may not be evident for quite some time.
While the program Timeline and the Tell-Tales outcomes can be used to educate people in the organisation about the transformation plan and potential pitfalls, during the transition period ongoing, visible internal publicity is required.
Keep in mind and plan for the fact that the transition period requires significant, ongoing conversations and presentations to drive the organisation towards its Target State, and to maintain alignment.
7 – Truth
How can you explain the difference to your peers that Product-Led Transformation delivers broader, more beneficial outcomes than an Agile or Digital Transformation alone?
It is hard to get an organization to align around a change as big as this one. It can be a significant investment, it does require great effort.
It is easy for C-Suite Executives to look at the change as a cost they don’t want to bear.
But, there are good questions to ask:
-If we don’t enable our organisations to embed customer and business benefit in our products now, then, when?
-If we do nothing, then, what?
The “Truth” is that the cost of not going on this journey is far greater than the cost of doing it.
The 7 Ts of Product-Led Transformation is an opportunity to view transformation through a different lens, one that more holistically involves a key function in the organisation, the Product Management function. Activate your Product Management function as a growth engine, rather than treating it as a Delivery arm of the organisation.