Enhance product mode transition with a Center of Excellence

Rapidly evolving markets and increasing competitive pressure require large companies to deliver high-quality products quickly. Establishing a dedicated Center of Excellence (CoE) for product management represents a strategic approach to enhancing methodology, optimizing processes, and integrating innovative tools. This article explores the key aspects of creating such a center, including its definition, objectives, implementation steps, and anticipated benefits.

Let’s start by reviewing the definition of a product to avoid any ambiguity. A product is a good, service, platform, application, system, etc., created to meet customer and business needs. In technology, your product may be software or a service that requires maintenance and upgrades.

Products use continuous or incremental discovery and delivery to achieve business/user outcomes and maximize business impact. Products are managed by cross-functional teams dedicated to one product at a time, providing 360° expertise and fostering dynamic co-construction through collaborative decisions. A product-oriented approach emphasizes the software’s multiyear lifecycle, including ongoing maintenance and health activities.

All products:

  • Align the budget with goals and market outcomes based on a product roadmap and a fixed capacity (outcome prioritization is key).
  • Measure the value delivered by OKRs to continuously adapt (prioritizing maintenance and upgrades in subsequent sprints).

One way to improve product management practices is to set up a Center of Excellence. A product management CoE is a team of experts responsible for developing and sharing best practices in product management. It can train, coach, and mentor project and product managers, helping them identify and implement new tools and techniques.

There are several key steps involved in setting up a Center of Excellence for product management :

  1. Define the scope of the CoE: Determine the focus areas. Will it cover all aspects of product management or focus on specific areas like agile project management or product development? Define the service catalog, including existing and new services to develop.
  2. Identify key stakeholders: Identify the key stakeholders involved in the CoE, including project and product managers, senior executives, and training and development professionals.
  3. Develop a business case: Outline the benefits of setting up a CoE. How will it save the company money? How will it improve customer satisfaction?
  4. Identify the resources needed: Determine the resources required to set up and run the CoE, including funding, staff, training materials, tools, techniques, and a network of project and product management experts (e.g., consulting services).
  5. Develop a plan for the CoE: Establish short-term and long-term goals for the CoE. Define the management structure and processes for the competence center.

Establishing a Product Management Center of Excellence (PM CoE) can significantly enhance team effectiveness and efficiency within an organization. By centralizing expertise, resources, and best practices, the PM CoE serves as a hub for nurturing product management talent and fostering a culture of innovation. Through continuous training, mentorship, and knowledge sharing, teams benefit from standardized processes, streamlined communication channels, and access to advanced product-oriented tools and methodologies. Moreover, the PM CoE provides a platform for cross-functional collaboration, enabling teams to leverage diverse perspectives and expertise in developing robust product strategies and roadmaps. Ultimately, by supporting teams with a PM CoE, organizations can drive product success, enhance market competitiveness, and achieve sustainable growth.

Let’s consider a real-world example from the luxury goods industry, focusing on the delivery transition process of a new major initiative. We consider here a “major initiative” as a request with significant financial, business, security, architecture, … impact(s).

The first challenge of a new initiative is to deliver a rudimentary but functional first version of a product – the MVP (Minimum Viable Product). An MVP is a coherent, value-oriented set of features to meet basic user needs. Its primary purpose is to quickly test an idea or concept with users with minimal investment of time and resources.

For such initiatives, the initial approach is typically project-based to build a solid technical and functional base that meets minimum requirements. The development of this MVP can occur in parallel with the maturation of new needs (clarification of business needs, identification of existing systems, definition of datasets, functional and technical architecture studies, identification of the design scenario, and workload estimation by development teams) to ensure continuity for the next increment.

Once the MVP is delivered, proven product management practices encourage transitioning to a product-based approach to iterate (build) on this solid base while maintaining (run) the MVP. Successive deliveries aim to meet all user requirements for this initiative before adopting a continuous improvement approach for the product. Transitioning activities from development teams to Third-Party Maintenance Application (TMA) teams involves careful change management:

  • Involvement of TMA teams in the design, build, and validation of features to assess release impacts, ensure changes, and new SLAs.
  • Implementation of a hypercare stage during production releases, involving documentation and knowledge transfer.

The roll-out stream prepares all teams for the go-live phase, identifying the best transition time-slot, planning activities meticulously, and organizing hypercare to provide immediate and flexible support until stabilization. The transition phase includes knowledge transfer and documentation to the maintenance and user support teams (build-to-run), leading to the final project retrospective and closure. This phase should be anticipated from the project’s outset and throughout its lifecycle (Design, Build & Validate stages).

There are numerous benefits to setting up a Center of Excellence for product management:

  • Improved product delivery: A CoE enhances product management efficiency and effectiveness by providing access to best practices and expertise, ensuring on-time and within-budget delivery.
  • Increased employee skills and knowledge: A CoE elevates the skills and knowledge of project and product managers, leading to better product outcomes.
  • Reduced costs: A CoE lowers product management costs by offering training and coaching to avoid costly mistakes.
  • Increased user satisfaction: A CoE boosts customer satisfaction by minimizing defects and ensuring products meet users’ needs.