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October 20, 2020

Advice on Helping Transform from Project to Product

By IT Revolution

A series of advice blogs from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2020 presenters.


Moving from a project-centric to product-centric organization is on a lot of enterprises list. Continuing our series of advice blogs from DevOps Enterprise Summit 2020 presenters, we asked for advice on how to achieve this shift.

What is your top advice to help an organization transform from a project to product approach?

“First, there needs to be an understanding that project teams cannot compete against product teams. Product teams become business domain experts in how to deliver their capabilities to implement that domain efficiently. They care about the outcomes because they own those outcomes and they own the decisions that achieved them. This improves quality and reduces costs.

“How do you change to this model? You need to align your organization around the business domains and the capabilities that implement those domains. Domain decomposition is the first step. Once the coarse sub-domains are defined into products, you then further decompose those into product capabilities that can be owned, birth to death, by a single team. Then the team further decomposes those into the service(s) that implement those capabilities. You’ll most likely get this wrong. Don’t aim for perfect because perfect never ships. Aim for ‘appears correct’ and make sure that you have the ability to inspect and adapt.”
—Bryan Finster, Value Stream Architect, Walmart DevOps Dojo, Walmart

“I love the idea of Customer Journey Mapping to help conceptualize the outside in view our customers have. Understanding what the product is and how its used is critical in not getting lost in the forest of projects, and instead focus on improving our products”
—Adam Shake, Director of Site Reliability Engineering, MediaMath Source

“Take it slow and focus on flow.”
—Mick Miller, Senior Product Manager, Cloud Native, KeyBank

“Your job is not to get things done. Your job is to enable the business to succeed.”
—Dave Mangot, Principal, Mangoteque

Try. Using phrases like ‘it’s always been done this way’ or ‘it can never work here’ are challenges to show and prove the worth of the effort. Build a following of the willing and keep showing why it makes sense. At some point there will be a groundswell in folks having an ‘a-ha’ moment.”
—Christopher McFee, Director of DevOps Practices, KeyBank

Show how e2e ownership of the product increases the teams own investment since they are the ones that will be operating it.”
—Jonathan Ackers, Product Owner – RadioCentral, Motorola Solutions

Meet the customer. Everyone–from sysadmin to backend dev to frontend dev–should listen directly to customers and internalize customer goals as the driving force for everything they do.”
—David Stanke, Director of Site Reliability Engineering, MediaMath Source

Keep teams stable.”
—Roman Pickl, Technical Project Manager and Continuous Improvement Agent, Elektrobit

“Put someone in charge of product thinking.”
—Douglas Squirrel, coauthor of Agile Conversations

- About The Authors
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IT Revolution

Trusted by technology leaders worldwide. Since publishing The Phoenix Project in 2013, and launching DevOps Enterprise Summit in 2014, we’ve been assembling guidance from industry experts and top practitioners.

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