To understand what a product led company is, we first need to understand what the difference between product development and a project is.
Projects are planned to be finite. You do them once, leave them and move on. A good example of a project is a change in tax, VAT for example. In the UK VAT had been set at 17.5% for as long as anyone could remember. In most systems, it was a constant. When there was a change and it was increased to 20%, many companies decided to have a project where VAT was made a variable, so systems could be easily changed in the future if needed.
Product developments are value led, outcome driven and evolutionary in style. They have certain outcomes they are trying to meet and will iterate towards them. There are lots of examples of this – models of cars, mobile phones and software product like Facebook all gradually evolve with new features and options bringing more and more value to the consumer.
Being a product led company is more than just a philosophy. It’s a way of working that drives a number of good behaviours: being customer centred, delivering value and responding to change to name a few.
The real gift of being a product led company eclipses all of these – understanding the problem you are trying to solve. This may sound like it’s too simple to be true, but its power comes from its simplicity. Many projects end up being focussed on deadlines and targets, but product development forces us to ask the questions “what job would our users hire this product to do?”, “why would they buy it” and “what new features would make them buy it again”.
Striving to be a product led company will in itself drive a lot of the cultural change needed to drive business agility and foster sustainable, profitable change.