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Paul Greenwell | Propel Ventures Co-FounderAug 22, 2023 11:23:19 AM2 min read

From Project-Centric to Product-Centric: A Paradigm Shift

In traditional business models, the emphasis has often been on executing projects by predetermined deadlines. This approach, while rooted in the demands of IT departments to deliver features and projects swiftly, and with a level of certainty around timing and cost, unfortunately overlooks the evolving and creative nature of technology-driven products.

Historically, projects have been seen as large, time-consuming, and costly endeavours aimed at achieving a particular outcome by a set date. This involves estimating team sizes, predicting timelines, securing funding, and then, more often than not, realising that the scope was underestimated. The rush to meet deadlines often overshadows the quest for genuine value. Once a project is completed, instead of refining it, teams are quickly shuffled to their next assignments.

This methodology is fraught with challenges:

  1. Iterative Development: True value often emerges after several iterations. However, the project-based approach seldom budgets for more than the initial launch.

  2. Ownership and Sustainability: When teams are transient, hopping from one project to another, there's a diminished sense of ownership in the end outcome. This lack of permanence often results in products that aren’t built for longevity or maintainability - but do meet the stated requirements in the initial or agreed spec.

  3. Innovation Stifling: The focus remains on delivering what stakeholders demand, sidelining engineers from exploring the realm of the newly possible. Consequently, innovation becomes a lower class citizen.

  4. Tech Debt Accumulation: With the primary goal being project completion, there's less foresight into the long-term implications of the work. This shortsightedness leads to a growing level of technical debt.

Enter the product-centric model, which contrasts with the project model, in a product-centric model, we emphasise products and their outcomes. In a product-centric model, product teams are aligned with business objectives, be it reducing customer attrition, enhancing growth, or any other pertinent KPIs. Their every move is geared towards influencing these metrics positively. It's not just about adding features; it's about ensuring those features translate to desired outcomes. This approach fosters an environment where teams are deeply invested in the results.

This shift isn't merely structural; it's cultural. It's about transitioning from temporary project teams to enduring product teams that are accountable for tangible outcomes which are measurable, not just feature delivery.

While the project model celebrates time-to-market, the product model champions a more consequential metric: time-to-value. In this new era, it's not just about launching; it's about launching with purpose and continuous improvement.

proj to prod

Paul Greenwell | Propel Ventures Co-Founder

Accomplished product & technology leader with 20+ years’ experience delivering innovative solutions in industries including accounting, safety & defence.