Digital product delivery is often slow to market, expensive, and ineffective; worse still, it’s sometimes all three. But the problem is never as big as you think it is. First you must uncover the problems in the right areas to solve your delivery challenge.  
Tristan White
Tristan White

Digital product delivery is often slow to market, expensive, and ineffective; worse still, it’s sometimes all three. But the problem is never as big as you think it is. First you must uncover the problems in the right areas to solve your delivery challenge.  

Here’s a sobering statistic. According to a Geneca survey, 75% of business professionals say that digital delivery is “always or usually doomed from the start”. Even with the best product teams and the best ideas for a strong market fit, you may still come up short. According to business guru R.G Cooper, product failure was 48% in 2011, with that figure falling between 70-90%, today.

 The statistics back up what we hear all the time. Take the following common challenge that you may be familiar with…  

“My team is not delivering the results I need. Our internal processes are holding them back, and no one seems to know how to go faster.”

Now, couple this delivery challenge against the wider business context of delivering at pace in an ever-changing and ever-disruptive landscape, and the world of product delivery just got even harder. For example, for well-established organisations competing with disruptive start-ups, the concept of delivering effective solutions at pace and in-budget within this context may seem even more challenging. Add remote working into the mix, brought on by the pandemic, and you’re really testing the capabilities of your infrastructure, processes and cultural resolve.

It’s therefore never been more important to make sure you can pivot, change and deliver effectively. In order to do so, we must focus our attentions on uncovering your delivery problem areas, for us to see where the solutions lie.

Where are the problems?

First of all, this isn’t strictly about personnel. It might be that you don’t have the right skills and capabilities in your team, but in our experience most problems originate from the system and the environment in which your delivery team are working. People can spend a lifetime working together, and never truly collaborate.

“A bad system will beat a good person every time”

W. Edwards Deming
 

A lack of effective processes and governance maturity, team culture, and issues with the team’s operational environment can be hard to see and act on, despite existing review methods in place. That’s why you need to understand the priority areas for attention in your delivery function to help maximise your team’s productivity and accelerate your business transformation. Some of the priority areas we’re recommend focussing on:  

Direction

Every business, department or product needs a North Star. Without it, your team are flying blind. If changes are made to your project without direction, it’s highly likely you’ll deviate from reaching your North Star, which won’t help with the success of your product delivery, and its commercial impact. By articulating a clear customer value proposition to the team, you will drive an overarching vision that is commercially focussed to a business outcome (not output) and will align your team, pushing them and empowering them to think big.

Process

Businesses who use the waterfall process or similar, are often subjected to a large amount of sign off process and stage gates. Shifts in the market often cause changes to your product development and delivery plans, and making changes using a waterfall methodology is often cumbersome, or worse, impossible. Agile methodologies are the key to making this work. Using Scrum Agile with Delivery Design principles will allow you to build out great teams that release change early and often. 

Culture

If a business has a culture that doesn’t respect change, it’s not going to work. 26% of those responsible for digital delivery say cultural issues pose huge problems for digital transformation delivery. Culture is the lifeblood of a business, it’s one of the main reasons people enjoy coming to work and share their skills. It’s rare for anyone to not want to do good work, or have their ideas listened to. A negative culture won’t foster change or ideation, or it happens slowly. Worse still, you may end up losing key members of the team. Fostering a culture that allows this is key.

Compliance

26% of those responsible for digital delivery say that legal and compliance concerns is a top challenge to delivering digital transformation projects [source: Altimeter]. Staying compliant, whilst delivering at pace, can often cause delays. Identifying this and building it into your delivery process will allow you to surface and side-step potential legal issues without slowing down delivery progress.

Infrastructure

 Firstly, legacy systems used in traditionally large organisations is a major blocker to successful delivery. At the other end of the scale, start-ups may have agile processes, but their infrastructure isn’t set up to scale. Either way, deployments take longer, technologies aren’t up to date and this means more work for your development team to make changes.

Testing

For traditional businesses, testing can sometimes take just as long as the development. Testing needs to be an integral part of the development process, not thrown over the fence. All of these factors contribute to delivery inefficiency, which slow down the rate in which businesses can succeed.

How to make change

For organisations struggling to deliver, change is required. Change will help to untangle processes, activate your people, and bring ideas to life. Doing so will mean your product team delivers effective, commercially successful products that make a real difference to your users.

By focussing on the aforementioned areas, your business can start to identify what needs fixing and how to make changes. But that’s easier said than done. The biggest issue businesses face is blindness. They know there’s a problem, but it’s difficult to unpick the problems, or even know where to start.

We recommend performing a review of what’s working and what’s not. You’re looking to expose frictions and tensions and seek out recommendations on where and how to improve in your delivery. To enable this, we recommend a three-step process, focussing on key areas of your delivery team’s functionality:

  1. Performance & blockers audit: Collect data and perceptions of the delivery function’s key challenges, major frontline concern and issues, and desired improved outcomes across all stakeholders.
  1. Ops capability assessment: Assess delivery team’s current use of and ability across models, frameworks, methods and tools to assess maturity, operational weaknesses and to provide a direction of travel.
  1. Team profile review: Evaluate team satisfaction, knowledge and skill to identify skills gaps with defined progression plans.    

Taking stock and reviewing processes, governance maturity, team culture, and operational environment will allow you to uncover the problems in the right areas to solve your delivery challenge, and allow you to start delivering effectively at pace and on budget.

Etch’s Delivery Pressure Test exposes delivery problems and weaknesses and highlights operational wins. It’s a 3-day observational study designed to level-up how your organisation thinks, works, and delivers products. Get in touch for more information.

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