Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How businesses can benefit from a product-led and agile mindset

By Sophia Charters, Account Director, Freestyle

With the Covid-19 pandemic accelerating digital adoption, and customer purchasing habits constantly changing, businesses are focusing more than ever on their digital offering – integrating new capabilities and features allowing for speed, scalability and flexibility.

With customer behaviours more unpredictable than ever, no longer can businesses rely on a project-led approach based on assumptions around customer expectations. Whilst this may work for simple and straightforward initiatives where the requirements are identifiable up front and remain static, it goes without saying that most marketing challenges simply don’t fit that description.

A product-led mindset on the other hand means exactly that – the product is at the forefront. The focus is on understanding value and having the flexibility to keep creating it.

Three ways a product-led approach brings new value to a business

  • Solving complex challenges

A product led approach allows continuous ‘input’ of new ideas inspired by users’  feedback on what’s already been delivered. Therefore, the method is well suited to solve complex issues and unveil ‘known unknowns’ timely. This prevents a company from investing in solving the wrong problems.

  • Quicker validation

The product-oriented approach delivers value faster through earlier validation. This method aims to check the usability of any given product as soon as possible, so it can reduce costs and provide quick changes to deliver the expected results.

  • Embracing healthy risks

It’s easier, faster and cheaper to roll out smaller updates and build on regular checks, rather than launch a product on a few assumptions. Even if the product resonates with a test group, it may not be well received by a wider audience. Therefore, running constant tests over an extended period of time will pay off in the long run.

As soon as the customer has access to a product in its minimal viable product (MVP) form, the business will begin to benefit. The insights and learnings that are harvested from feedback will act as fuel for future opportunities to drive value.

Things to keep in mind before you embrace a product-ledapproach

Making the move to product led will present some high level challenges. It’s extremely important that everyone within the organisation is well aligned. The focus needs to be on delivering value, with an expectation that what creates value will change over time.

  • Stakeholder commitment

Having fixed long term plans for investment may be seen as a safer, more comfortable approach. One that is generally preferred by stakeholders. But having a budget cycle that is often reviewed with the ability to flex will enable businesses to invest in the work that is truly creating value.

  • Utilise valuable feedback

The right teams, technology and processes for production and iteration of your product are key. But take the time to collect, analyse and implement the learnings and insights gained from feedback.

  • Culture and ownership

The culture of the company needs to be empowering. It’s about owning a product through its full lifecycle. Product teams should be diverse and multi-disciplinary, anchored by a single shared set of goals, attitudes and behaviours. Decisions should not be made by one individual and should be meaningful. Agility is compromised if impactful choices are taken from the team and placed on stakeholders desks.

Aligning an agile and product led approach

Products that are developed iteratively, continuously improving from user feedback and new insights, are by nature agile endeavours.

Agile is supercharged when the product-led approach is at play.

With an agile approach encouraging customer feedback after each iterative cycle, a product can be reviewed and reiterated to ensure that it is delivering value to the customer experience.

By contrast, with a project approach, agile tools can certainly help to achieve a goal quickly, but ultimately that’s where their power ends. Employing agile tactics won’t change the fact that the project team’s interest is likely to be lost once the fixed project plan has been delivered.

Investment in product rather than project led for customer experience initiatives can empower businesses to successfully handle change. With this commitment to a responsive approach, organisations can leverage agile methodologies and  reap the rewards of continuous improvement.

Direct Line – making the move to agile

Shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold last year, insurance leader Direct Line decided to re-imagine the way they worked to deliver more for their customers, giving them a serious competitive advantage in the insurance sector.

Agile team structures were introduced, replacing previous rigid hierarchies. These cross functional, self organising teams were able to deliver their products from beginning to end. This allowed for visibility across the business and motivation to speed up how quickly a product went from conception to the market.

Focus was given on promoting a learning community, using collaboration to drive continuous improvement and the ability to adapt quickly to changing customer needs.

This agile mindset allowed for product discovery through a ‘test, learn, adapt’ approach with real-time feedback on products from their customers.

This move to agile has strengthened Direct Line’s digital offering, focusing on simplicity, speed and ease of access for their customers – in an industry known as being inherently complex.

Delivering value in the customer experience

Companies such as Google, Facebook and Tesla all employ a product led approach – recognising that the value of their proposition comes from the success of their customer experience. The focus is on delivering high value experiences at every stage of the customer journey. This has seen them put their products at the centre of every single business function – with company-wide alignment and teams working together towards the same goal.

Every marketer and business leader knows customer needs and trends are evolving faster than ever. Whilst larger companies can put significant budget towards digital innovation, smaller companies can also stay ahead and scale at pace. Staying agile and adopting a product led mindset allows for a more value-driven, customer-centric experience, fewer financial risks and greater impact.