Today we are witnessing what could still be considered the early days of a multi-decade digital transformation affecting almost every industry. From financial to healthcare, energy to automotive, organizations are modernizing legacy systems and embracing next-gen technologies. But even as various initiatives are several years underway, many enterprises still face avoidable issues limiting their success.
Contrary to popular belief, some of the biggest challenges stifling their progress aren’t tools, engineering, or technology. Rather, for many organizations, there is a growing gap between the strategy and planning teams responsible for the goals and initiatives, and the design and engineering teams required for their execution.
Though prevalent, these gaps aren’t just present in digital transformation projects. They often occur across all types of software and product development initiatives. Product development is challenging enough, with about a 40% fail rate, making it critical to increase the odds of successful delivery by closing these gaps and implementing effective processes.
Understanding the Gap
While leveraging a cross-functional team to achieve a single unified goal, there are many areas where these gaps can occur. For example, an organization might have engineering teams that excel at shipping out different features that align with the overall plan, but far too often business leaders are left wondering, “What business goals are they achieving with the release of new features and functionality?”
In many cases, the pieces simply don’t align as executives expect, and it’s hard to quantify the benefits or ROI on a specific feature. Again, they’re left asking questions like “How long does production take?” or perhaps more importantly, “How long until we realize the benefits?”
As we dive deeper into the root causes, much of it originates from overall process issues. For some, it’s a lack of communication, while others may not have clearly defined roles and responsibilities. For example, the strategy team may have a vision or specific goals for the project that is not communicated effectively to the planning team. Perhaps this is why 57% of employees feel their product manager is not strategic enough.
Similarly, design and engineering may not have a full understanding of the work each team is doing. The design team might not clearly understand the technical requirements of engineering, resulting in designs that are difficult or impossible to implement. And the engineering team may not recognize design limitations, leading to frustration and delays on both parts.
These gap-creating issues can lead to misalignment between the two groups and create issues throughout the development lifecycle.
What Creates Gaps within Cross-Functional Teams
And while those are common reasons, the gap that often exists between strategy and delivery can also be caused by, or create, other common challenges. These could include:
Gaps in Process Definition
For some teams, these gaps create questions of scope and responsibilities or lead to a lack of clarity about how their work fits into the larger context. Others may not realize how their responsibilities affect other teams’ efforts, making it difficult to prioritize tasks and manage timelines effectively.
Ultimately this creates a broader lack of visibility over progress, makes it harder to identify issues, and can create challenges for each team to provide accurate updates or identify the next steps. As a result, teams are more likely to experience bottlenecks and overrun costs due to incorrect resource allocation or waste from unnecessary steps.
Lack of Best Practices for Tool Usage
While strategy, planning, design, and engineering teams will at times obviously need to use different tools, without clear alignment they may face challenges in accessing the same information, sharing updates, or effectively collaborating in general. This often leads to data silos and miscommunication between departments. In addition, without unified practices for tools like Aha! and Jira, it’s harder to standardize processes which can cause delays and slow down delivery times. Ultimately, this lack of coordination across multiple tools and technologies leads to decreased productivity and an inefficient product development cycle.
When strategy and delivery teams operate in silos, sharing critical information and timely updates becomes much more difficult. As a result, each could be operating on different data, timelines, and processes. These silos also contribute to a further lack of standardization in processes which can create a cascade of other challenges. The resulting loss of coordination between the teams often affects product development cycles, leading to decreased productivity and collaboration.
Closing the Gap
So what does it take for today’s organizations to close the gap between strategy and delivery? As our Product Management Principal Bogdan Coman puts it “The Holy Grail of digital transformation sits on a foundation of mindset, people, and processes.”
A critical piece of this includes implementing better effective development processes and standardizing best practices for tools like Aha! and Jira. Simply put, product development processes should ensure that strategies are properly implemented, while tooling infrastructure and practices should be a key part of helping all teams reach a unified goal.
1. Effective Processes
By creating an optimized product development process, organizations can ensure that strategies and best practices are properly followed throughout the entire development lifecycle. Common elements of the process should include:
- Clear goals and OKRs
- Defining roles and responsibilities from the outset
- Timeline and milestone development
- Alignment between all stakeholders
And perhaps most importantly, ensuring everyone involved on both the strategy and delivery teams is aware of the above.
2. Measurable and Timely OKRs
As you’re creating your OKRs and determining how they fit into your overall process, keep in mind the various metrics you’ll need to measure throughout the journey. Instead of focusing the OKRs solely on the final outcomes or major milestones, tie them more closely to day-to-day work. Not only will this help provide a clear sense of direction every step of the way, but it also allows for more accurate tracking of results over time. This helps you make adjustments when needed.
3. Breaking Down Silos
Organizations should also assess where functional silos exist, what creates the silos, and the best way to break down the silos. For example, consider the ultimate function of design and engineering teams – delivery. While these two teams work towards the same goals to develop new products and ultimately deliver value to the user, by design they’re often siloed into their own teams, with their own processes, and their own software. Bringing these units together into one cross-functional delivery unit increases both creativity and collaboration while allowing for faster, more effective communication.
4. Tool Alignment
Additionally, an important part of creating effective processes includes organizations determining which tools are most effective for product planning and development, like Aha! and Jira, and how to best align them. This alignment will help prevent duplication and overlap and reduce the probability of a disconnect in communication. As a result, you’ll have more streamlined processes, making it easier for teams to track and communicate progress.
See It in Action
Clearly, creating great software, products, and digital transformation initiatives is challenging. With different teams, tools, processes, and expectations, it’s easy to see how disconnects between business and IT leaders occur so often. Our latest webinar dives into the specifics to help overcome these challenges and close gaps that impede progress throughout the SDLC. In the detailed presentation, Bogdan Coman explains why process is key to bridging the product strategy and delivery divide. From downstream planning and upstream tracking to Aha! and Jira best practices, if you’re a leader looking to consolidate your design and engineering talent into an effective cross-functional delivery unit, this is one webinar you don’t want to miss. Check out the full replay on demand here.
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