There is an increased focus across industries on transforming business models using digital and cloud-based strategies. In recent times, Infosys Consulting and leading financial services firm have embarked on an ambitious journey to build the institutional retirement business on a cloud native platform. The 10-year program costing $ 1.5B involves building reimagined digital experiences involving social and mobile channels, automated processes, and collaborative working models. Infosys has signed similar large partnerships with leading firms across industries in USA, Europe, and Asia Pacific; helping the firms leverage cloud and digital technologies to modernize and improve business agility and competitiveness.
Such large transformation programs are critical for organizations to sustain and grow businesses while addressing current and future challenges. The drivers could include adding new or expanding existing revenue streams, meeting global and local regulatory needs, protecting market share by achieving parity with competitors, or improving profit margins through lower cost models.
These programs are high stakes initiatives; often involve multiple stakeholders and failure to achieve key drivers can adversely affect firm reputation, profitability, and growth targets. Programs often face the following challenges:
Continuous Discovery: Initial understanding of scope evolves through the course of the program, as stakeholders including sponsors, business users, and technical resources, deliberate and discuss the details. The changing market conditions, organizational priorities, and discovery of new facts that challenge initial assumptions and business cases, leads to refinement of scope and frequent adding, modifying, or removing of requirements.
Continuous Collaboration: The success of such programs depends on collaboration between business, technology, and corporate functions such as risk, legal, marketing, sales, service, and executive leadership. There is a continuous need to prioritize and align stakeholder interests and ensure efforts are in sync.
Continuous Uncertainty: It is impossible to predict and control all events in such multi-year programs spanning diverse geographies and involving multiple organization units. Such events can lead to sudden shift in priorities and even the best-laid plans can change. The triggers for such events include leadership changes, regulatory events, or large global crises such as political strife and natural disasters (COVID-19).
Continuous Communication: As outlined above, such programs involve multiple stakeholders leading to scenarios where goals, challenges, perspectives, and priorities differ. Additionally, the continuous discovery and handling of unexpected events outlined above, affect existing timelines and funding levels, necessitating need for continuous negotiations and expectation management amongst stakeholders.
Figure 1: Product Management: Key Considerations and Stakeholder Groups
A product management based approach is best suited for such large transformation programs; it helps organizations accept change, manage stakeholder (internal and external) priorities, drive budget, P&L and funding alignments and continuously refresh the product feature list meeting market and regulatory conditions. Product management can help address the listed challenges, as detailed below.
Continuous Discovery: Unlike waterfall strategies, product management anchors itself in an iterative model of identifying, elaborating, validating, and reviewing / retiring features based on new and enhanced understanding of market and user needs. The product management organization is tasked with continuous engagement with the market and customer facing functions. This helps it identify new requirements and modify or withdraw existing ones. The concept of decomposing (grooming) a high-level requirement (Epics) into capabilities, features, and user stories through the course of the program allows the organization to adjust funding levels and realign teams with minimal rework and disruption.
Continuous Collaboration: The product manager is a matrix role that enables sharing of knowledge and perspectives between business, corporate and technology delivery teams. For example, a digitally engineered product can be expected to deliver enhanced customer engagement as well as improve operational productivity. Such a mandate naturally leads to managing divergent stakeholder interests. Similarly, building such a product would entail changes in user experience, underlying processes, and technologies. This necessitates persistent and focused discussions (grooming) on assessing feasibility of requirements and timelines regarding available funding, resource skills, organizational readiness, and technology related constraints. The product manager drives conversations, translates the business and technical jargons and perspectives, and helps build consensus.
Continuous Uncertainty: As outlined above, the product construct allows agility and flexibility to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. For example, requirements can be reprioritized to address sudden market and regulatory changes such as expediting release of new digital and AI products (chatbot, sentiment analytics) or prioritizing requirements related to COVID-19 driven government grants and tax relief, supply chain shifts and remote work environments. Similarly, a technology or resource constraint can be handled through modifying a lower-level requirement detail while retaining the original vision and goal (EPIC/CAPABILITY).
Continuous Communication: The product management function maintains the product roadmap using it as a baseline document to communicate the benefit statements to investors, key clients, and executive leadership justifying the investments and setting expectations with marketing, sales, and customer service teams. It supports the organization change management (OCM) team in planning OCM events, designing stakeholder specific communications.
As economies reopen and organizations explore different working models (remote, in office and hybrid), there will be a continuous focus in reinventing ways of working and doing business. The trend to adapt digital and cloud-based solutions will continue, along with continuous market and regulatory led disruptions. A product management approach will help organizations stay ahead of the competition and deliver value to its stakeholders.
Scaled Agile Framework: https://www.scaledagileframework.com/product-management/
Infosys Transformation Deals: