(2014-10-14) Cagan Product Vs IT Mindset

Martin Cagan: Product vs. IT Mindset | Silicon Valley Product Group. The role of the product organization is to consistently deliver significant new value to the business through continuous product innovation.

In this article I want to talk about some of the deep reasons why innovation is stifled at so many established companies

Ben Horowitz. Ben uses the analogy of war time vs. peace time

once we encounter serious threats to our business from changing technology, evolving markets, and emerging competitors, this requires a war time mindset and a relentless focus on continuous innovation. I have witnessed many established companies that are clearly in war time but continue to behave as if in peace time.

Steve Blank

established companies focus exclusively on issues of scale and execution, at the expense of continuous innovation

I’d like to try to add to this discussion another root cause

I call this problem “IT Mindset.”

I first witnessed this many years ago when I was an engineer for HP, building platform and tool technology products for “the enterprise.” We were big practitioners of what we now call Customer Development, and our customer was typically the IT organization of large companies. I remember being immediately struck by how different we designed and built technology, versus how our customers did.

I’d like to do here is shine a light on the actual problematic behaviors and differences, with the hope of inspiring established companies to take a hard look at their organization, their culture and their process, and hopefully start on the path to true continuous innovation:

1) Purpose. In an IT mindset organization, the staff exists to service the perceived technology needs of “the business.” In a technology-enabled product organization, the staff exists to service the needs of your customers, within the constraints of the business. This is a profound and far-reaching difference. Most of what is below stems from this difference.

2) Passion

3) Requirements

4) Staffing

I would argue the most telling manifestation of the IT mindset problem is that the product managers in IT mindset companies are typically very weak

5) Funding

still funding projects (output) rather than product teams measured by business results (outcome).

6) Process

usually find very slow, heavy, Waterfall processes, even when the engineers consider themselves Agile. The only part that would be considered Agile would be at the tail end of build, test and release. Much of this stems from the Funding issue above, but deciding what areas to invest in, staffing a team, defining and designing the solution

7) Silos

8) Organization

product is not a sub-function of marketing. It is a top-level activity on par with marketing and technology.

9) Accountability

In IT mindset companies, accountability frankly is a farce

The people actually working on a project typically have no real say in what they are building, and sometimes even in how it’s built, and even when it’s due. (Deadline)

10) Leadership

Leadership in IT mindset companies is always looking for a silver bullet when it comes to technology.


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