Product Lifecycle Management – Beyond the Early Adopter

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Craig Strong, VP of Product Lifecycle Management at Pearson, talks about the work they have done to evolve their product lifecycle management and the key learnings that have taken place along the way. Pearson are a long established global company with multiple brands and acquisitions., and product lifecycle management has been a catalyst for changing the culture across the business as they undergo a digital transformation away from a long established culture of print. Specifically, their carefully structured but non-linear product lifecycle management process has influenced business culture to think more like a lean start-up in an enterprise environment.

Better ideas are found through exploration

Craig shares Pearson’s 6 phase framework for Product Lifecycle Management and shows how rather than confining practice, it’s a business-model agnostic structure which allows them to focus on the right behaviours at the right times. The early phases leading up to MVP are characterised by short time scales, lean metrics and disposability over scalability. Lightweight ideas generation moves quickly with minimal finance into an “Explore” phase, focusing on the discovery of real customer needs. Craig advocates for spending plenty of valuable time in Explore before introducing any development capability – getting into the environment, focusing on the need and actively discouraging premature convergence.

Crossing the Chasm … and taking the customers with you

Behaviour and metrics all change as we cross the chasm into growth and switch markets from early adopters to early majority, with scaleability and speed of response to market opportunity becoming key. But Pearson moderate their growth ambitions with a strong sense of strategy that guides which ideas they decide to develop towards execution. To that end, they keep a sharp eye on “micro conversations”, even when growing at scale, to help them determine whether they need to develop a product further for a maturing market, or split it into multiple products addressing several markets that differ in kind, rather than their adoption phase.  “Sensory networks” are keeping Pearson connected to the customer as they follow new leads and opportunities, allowing them to constantly reflect on the impact of growth on the customer.

Growth is an assumption but …

Strategy is key and metrics are all relative (to market changes, product maturity…)., so Aas you increment beyond the MVP, stay clear on your strategy. Pearson’s model reminds you to revisit and retesting strategy as you move beyond the chasm and to take a culture of search and discovery behaviours forward into scaling execution.

A word on Metrics

Finally, Craig warns against setting narrow metrics which hide other possible indicators and opportunities. Remember to take a step back from your KPIs to look at the wider ecosystem around your products, in order to spot adjacent opportunities at every stage of your product lifecycle. Similarly, don’t forget that your hypotheses – and therefore your metrics and targets – should be different depending on what level you’re assessing your product. Strategic growth should be assessed longitudinally, whereas the very different tactical and technical product metrics need to be measured on much shorter timescales.

To wrap up, Llook beyond your own absolute performance, and consider your product to relativeity into any competitor analysis (for a more accurate measure of market performance), stay close to your strategy (and be ready to keep a cautious distance from your metrics) as you develop new ideas, and always stay connected to your customers.

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