In today’s world where almost everything is “Consumer Internet,” to envision and conceptualize a new product/service or reimagine an existing one is no longer the most pressing concern for businesses. What’s on top of their ‘Challenge List’? To deliver the said concept within the ideals of what we refer to in product delivery as “TBQ” -- on Time, in Budget and with Quality.
What truly agonizes businesses? The demand for better, cheaper and faster products delivered to the market. There are books and blogs that tackles this concern. Even seminars, trainings and short courses are available to aid businesses in achieving the magic of “TBQ”, yet most organizations are still struggling to decipher how to make it work for them.
Through the course of my career in product/service delivery, I have faced the same dilemma. The funny part (which is not really that funny) is that each and every time I come across such challenges, the RCA or Root Cause Analysis always reveals a different set of causes than what was previously known. What does this imply? To triumph over these challenges you need to know what the real barriers are. How? Start by asking yourself these questions:
“What’s stopping you from delivering your product on time?”
“What’s making you go beyond the set budget?”
“What’s decreasing the quality of the product or service?”
Your response to these questions will fall into one of the following fundamental challenges that arises in product delivery:
1. Time Vs. Scope
For any business, it is important to plan ahead. But it gets complicated when the business starts hard pressing on the Delivery team for Go-To-Market [GTM] despite the presence of numerous factors that may affect the resulting product/service.
Delivery teams now find themselves in a crossroad, pressured on whether they should prioritize meeting the set deadline, delivering the required (and best) product or staying within the budget. Committing to a single master plan well in advance can be extremely difficult because of the risks involved. And even if a risk averse delivery model is adopted, there is still no guarantee that risks would be eliminated. How do you address this concern?
First, stop thinking that a fixed parameter – a fixed scope or time - exists. Although ideally it should, accepting the fact that these are constantly changing variables, will lead you to a better product. Not one that was launched prematurely or one that falls short in terms of its scope. The solution? Decide on which one parameter takes precedence. Will you favor sticking to the original launch date? Or is falling behind on schedule a better sacrifice than seeing a less than satisfactory product to the market on time? Once that is established, that one parameter will drive product delivery. Key decisions will be based on this one parameter.
What The Delivery Team Can Do: Educate the business and help them decide. Show them how each variable can affect the budget and which choice favors their business goals. Time and Scope can’t have an equal weight. Provide them with the necessary facts and figures to help them make a wise decision.
2. Pre-Sales/Marketing and Delivery Expectation Mismatch
Here’s what usually happens:
The tech team who’s developing the product/services always thinks that the pre-sales/marketing team keeps throwing them crazy and unrealistic timeframes. While the pre-sales/marketing team always assumes that the tech team is out to ruin their plans.
Tech Team [Tech]: Why did you commit to this complex idea and short time frame without consulting us? Or, the delivery team?
Pre-sales/Marketing Team [PM]: Why isn’t this possible?
Tech: You are asking us to deliver when it’s perfectly clear that we can’t on such short notice!
PM: We agreed on this time-frame!
Tech: But this wasn’t the complexity that we agreed upon! Why isn’t this kind of complexity captured appropriately in SoWs?
PM: Well, what do we expect, you deliver late anyways.
Tech: Why are you doing this?!
PM: Why are you doing this?!
This kind of conversation, no matter how unrealistic it may be is not good for marketing/sales, not good for technology/delivery and definitely, not good for business.
We’ve already pinpointed the issue but what’s causing it? Let’s consider the fact that each department has a different head. Two opposing heads carries the tension through to their teams. These teams operate on completely different goals and objectives, creating a huge disparity between how they view product delivery. What the pre-sales/marketing team wants is a product with the widest scope delivered in the shortest amount of time while the tech team asks for a product that has the least scope and the longest time to deliver.
To fix this, the organization needs to take an ambidextrous approach. Bring both teams together; let them feel the pressure that the other team is experiencing. Let them understand the challenges that the other team has to go through. Let them emphatize one another.
Having the best scrum masters, technology teams, business and quality analysts, project & product managers, marketing officers, tools and processes is not enough to arrive with a product that’s On Time, In Budget with Quality Delivery and GTM Ready. Setting the right environment and conditions for all of your teams to come together, play, collaborate and deliver is a vital part of product delivery.