In August, Scott was interviewed by Brian Milner on the Agile Mentors Podcast brought to you by training partner Mountain Goat Software.
Product-Centric and Customer-Focused
As someone who works in the product development space, terms such as product-centric and customer-focused are likely heard during meetings or while conversing with colleagues, managers, marketing analysts, and product owners; but how do we distinguish between these ideas when looking at them from an Agile perspective? Rocket Nine Solutions’ Scott Dunn, and Mountain Goat Software’s Brian Milner cover these topics in the 14th episode of the Agile Mentors Podcast.
When boiled down, “product-centric” seems to be a pretty straightforward term that gives itself away, but as you’ll learn from the podcast there are a plethora of other ideas that find a home under the wing of this term. At its core, product-centric means to have a focus on the product that is being produced, but if we broaden the lens we’re looking through, we can see that by proxy product-centricity also means having a focus on the business, and quality.
When I think product-centric it’s almost like I’m revisiting the agile transformation, which means to put the product first.
Referencing the Agile Manifesto principles: #7 “Working software is the primary measure of progress.” and #9 “Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility” Adopting an Agile approach to business means you must be product-centric.
Customer-Focused is the flip side of this sandwich we are working with. At its core being customer-focused really comes down to focusing on customer needs and feedback to enhance your product in a way so that consumers will gain more value from your product. The trick to having a customer focus is having true indicators of what customers find valuable in your product. Creating ways to establish feedback loops is a key part of Agility. This ties directly into Agile Manifesto principles #1 “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” and #2 “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.” A lot of times having this focus can mean that you must put aside some self interest to pursue a goal, which in most instances is going to yield a better long-term outcome. There are an endless number of ways to go about this approach. One example of this would be striving to have excellent customer service.
Bringing these ideas together
The philosophy of these two ideas in a business setting can be either harmonious, or they can be locked in fierce competition, but there are many ways to coax these ideas into a mutually beneficial state of operation. A good starting place for this is adopting an Agile business model across all levels of the company. Product owners, leadership, and the teams are charged with translating the wants and needs of customers, the demands of stakeholders and the vision of leaders into a working product. It’s easy to get caught in the struggle of the day and check out of the Agile mindset but we urge you to stay aware of the goals you want to achieve and the tools at your disposal to get to that goal. Many of these tools revolve around communication with all the players on the broader team of your organization. It’s paramount that leaders, product owners, and team members are all included in discussions to deliver a delightful product that meets all the required criteria. If adopting an Agile approach achieves keeping all the parts of the business working together, then its core value has been beautifully executed. When teams have a clear vision of what needs to be accomplished in front of them so much more can be accomplished in so much less time. Collaboration and alignment are key.