Guest Column | July 1, 2020

Leaping From A ‘Project' To A ‘Product' Mindset For Excellence In Software Engineering

By Tarunesh Sahu, Senior Director – Product Engineering, Brillio

Measure Excellence

Within the walls of enlightened software and services companies it has become popular to discuss a product mindset – a way of life for software engineering that almost automatically forces continuous evolution. And continuous evolution is the key to relevance and the ability to thrive.

With the ebbing of the greatest disruptors to mankind and how we knew it, the race for the new relevance is expected to be even more fast-paced and one that continuously changes course. We have seen great companies succumb to the pressures of not maintain their relevance as their products failed to evolve. Iconic brands like Kodak, Nokia, and Blockbuster lost their way because of their inability to reinventing offerings quickly enough to what customers wanted. Had they imbibed the engineering practices and culture of product companies, focused on products-as-a-service, their story may have ended differently.

By contrast, companies like Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, and Spotify which are anchored around product engineering principles to drive innovations faster are wooing customers with jaw-dropping ideas and bringing them to life through super accelerated product evolution.

Other businesses are now waking up to the fact that incremental change will not cut it any longer. The world wants disruptive products. And, now that it is evident that product thinking offers more opportunity to continuously change shape and form to ensure relevance, businesses must take to rapid iterative development by adopting a product mindset.

However, pivoting the entire organization to a product-mindset is not straight-forward as it reads and one where the adage “we cannot solve the problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” comes to bear. Such transformation requires organizations to partner with those that are immersed in a product-centric culture and are truly agile in orchestrating teams around the multi-dimensional aspects of the change.

The bottom-line philosophy of product-mindset in software engineering is that software must work immaculately from Day 1 and must continue to evolve over its entire life such that it drives continuous values and demands changes in training, integration, and support.

The new-age software companies develop products and services in a modular manner, each component being managed by a small and agile team that can enhance features and deliver upgrades quickly. Amazon, for example, releases new product code every 11.6 seconds and has gone up to a record 1,079 deployments in an hour at peak.[i] To emulate Amazon is to emulate success.

One of the fastest, and safest, ways to embark on this journey of relevance is to partner with a new-age technology services company like Brillio. The pillars for revving this engine for relevance include:

  • Human-centric design-led approach to problem solving
  • Engineering machinery with strong fundamental architecture expertise
  • Ability to scale using a well-rounded agile methodology 
  • Culture and people aspect of high-quality software delivery

None of the above hit top gear if the organization is not wired to thrive in a product-oriented way of working. Teams need to be orchestrated in ways that empower every individual to become autonomous and proactive and collaboration plays a major role here, especially in allowing teams to cross-function and multi-disciplinary. This is where being Agile is important to the culture. Technology and engineering will always have its limitations if the organization does not foster a product mindset.

How Do We Know It’s Working?

The best product development teams stay human centric. Designs and improvements are led by an approach that solves user problems rather than trying to do the same thing again and again with greater efficiency. Great product teams examine customer journeys, look at value streams, harness new technology, use data over intuition, and cut out unnecessary steps to go beyond superficial improvements in UX and UI. These are the teams that answer questions like, “Where to invest? How much to invest? What to build next?” with confidence and clarity.

Ideally, products should be developed by autonomous squads. Each squad can be of 8 to 10 people with skills that address the most unique challenges and that shoulder different responsibilities. The autonomy is essential to allow quick decision making instead of depending on managers and committees. Squads can scale when product development demands it.

Finally, superior product development is the result of Agile servant-oriented leadership that follows Agile formalities with close-to-religious zeal, adopting a path to transparency, inclusivity, a shared vision, learning based on feedback and a determination to ensure the development of people so that they can contribute their best

Traditional delivery teams often continue their pre-determined paths even when the goal post has moved, focusing on dates and deadlines. In the world that we live in, this is a recipe for disaster. Instead, a product mindset will look beyond the product. It will look at continuous improvement that meets dynamic demand and builds revenue—celebrating success every week or two!