How to Realistically Scale Product Delivery in 2022

Scaling product delivery is an important goal for most tech teams and businesses. However, that doesn’t mean things always go as planned. Success requires being realistic, and that starts with understanding the specific terms being used. 

  1. Scaling vs growth: Scaling and growth are often confused, and this is a mistake. Growth is simply about more — more product, more people, more sales. Scaling is the framework that enables growth. It’s how you change processes, structures and operations to accommodate growth within any given system. 
  2. Product delivery vs product development: Product delivery is the end stage of the product development process. It’s about putting your developments live within an end-user environment. The two processes need to work together within a broader product scaling strategy that’s able to achieve your goals. 

Although these terms are distinct in important ways, they all must work together towards a common goal that is defined by your business strategy. Here, we are going to focus specifically on what’s needed from a product delivery standpoint, and how that fits together with your wider plans. So, without further ado, let’s get started. 

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Suggested reading: If you want more details on the big picture of scaling product development, check out our new whitepaper — How to Scale Your Teams and Organisation Through 2022 and Beyond.

Step 1: Align product delivery with product development and business strategy

The first critical step to realistically scale product delivery is to align it with product development, and then align both with your business strategy. If you don’t have new features to deliver, then there is no need to scale delivery. If your product development strategy focuses on features that aren’t aligned with your business goals, you won’t be building and delivering the right things. All three of these points need to be working together for anything you do to really impact your business in a positive way. 

Strategies to help

Aligning your product strategy with your organisation requires knowing:

  • Your business’s future goals, vision, and mission
  • Your company’s capabilities and technology stack
  • How your customers (or end users) engage with your product
  • The developing trends that can help to solve your long-term problems

Draw up a list of these things and set your goals. After that, plan around them and try to understand what’s either missing or could work better. The answers to those questions dictate what you should be scaling, and what product features you are scaling drive decisions around product delivery strategies. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Do you really know all the ins and outs of your end-users? 
  • How do you get individual feedback from them? 
  • What product development demands does your business strategy generate? 
  • What product delivery demands does your product development strategy generate? 

Step 2: Focus on small teams of quality people

Scaling isn’t simply about throwing more people at the problem. It’s more about hiring the right people and enabling them to do more by building structures that allow any number of individuals to work together effectively. In this sense; “Scrappiness and cultural fit matter more than intelligence and experience.”1 This means thinking about product team structures and the ways in which the skill sets of individuals complement each other. 

Strategies to help

As the title of this step would imply, we are strong advocates of small empowered teams — particularly when operating at scale. We recommend prioritising transparency over control, and allowing teams to self-organise and autonomously collaborate to solve problems and develop solutions. This could be related to how you go about delivering features, or determining which features need to be developed in the first place. 

To be effective, those small product teams also need to be made up of the right people. You don’t want three leaders in the same team… otherwise, they’ll probably just argue about what to do the whole time. Additionally, although scaling product delivery might revolve around expanding your delivery teams, those people need to be supported by developers and engineers driving the product development, and fit within the overall business strategy that matters to your business. 

No matter how many people you bring on board, the most important thing is that they complement each other’s skill set, reflecting different personality types and roles. You also need to make sure that you build clear lines of communication, and deploy the right collaboration tools to enable effective coordination between teams. 

Ask yourself:

  • What skills do you need and what team roles are you missing?
  • Are your people already working on the right problems?
  • What technology do you need to support product team collaboration?

Step 3: Make tech choices based on your people and product

Many organisations look at technology choices independently of their people and product — focusing on “what’s new” or “what best”. Although thinking about the best technology for the job is great, that can’t really be done in a vacuum. You have to consider what technology is best for you, and that comes down to putting that choice in context — which can actually help you find the right people for the job. 

Strategies to help

If you want to successfully scale the product delivery process, make your technology choices go hand-in-hand with your product team plan. Think about it, technologists generally specialise in specific technology. So, if you pick some obscure technology that no one knows how to use… guess what? You’re going to end up with a tech skills shortage. Conversely, if you double down on a technology that works, that is common, and that you have existing experience delivering, finding the right people is far more likely.  

Be sure you align your technology choices with your company capabilities, business strategy, and other product management decisions. You should also always look to remain flexible with the technology you invest in. For example, it’s far easier to reverse moving a single application into the cloud vs rolling back a company wide transformation. This is what is meant by the phrase “one-way vs two-way doors”. Two-way technology doors that you can turn around and walk back through are safer to make, and easier to test out and align with your wider strategy.  

Ask yourself: 

  • Do you currently have the right hardware and software to enable scaling? 
  • What are the direct demands of your product on networks and servers? 
  • How do your tech choices impact the people you can hire? 

Step 4: Remain agile and don’t trust templates

No great product or business has the same needs as another. Your business is unique. So, don’t trust any templated advice and opt for a personalised scaling strategy. For example, this article’s recommendations aren’t meant to answer all your questions or tell you what to do. They can just help you better understand your business needs and product market fit. Fundamentally, it’s up to you to remain agile and respond to the demands of what’s required of you today… on any given day. 

Strategies to help

Scaling isn’t an end destination, but an ongoing process and framework. Often, agile is considered a strategy for scaling. More accurately, it’s a strategy for operating at scale. Although some organisations opt for specific (non-agile) scaling frameworks like SAFE, the point remains — you can’t ossify around a “scaled” conclusion to this process, you need to build a flexible product delivery system and then remain flexible long-term. How you do this, however, will always be unique to your specifics. So, beyond that, we can’t tell you what to do here — you’ll have to get in touch and tell us about yourself if you want to learn more. 

Now, find your path forward

If you have a clear picture of where you’re going, you can take actions now that will turn it into reality. Again, this is why having a clear product strategy is so important to scale great product development and delivery processes. It provides the vision for the future that allows you to be motivated, proactive, and self-confident. Fundamentally, that comes down to: 

  1. Scaling product teams: Finding the right people and organising them in ways that are able to grow while improving efficiency. 
  2. Scaling technology: Selecting the right tools to enable expansion and the selection of the right people. 
  3. Scaling product: Creating a product development roadmap that aligns with your business strategy, customer acquisition plans and delivery process. 

At 101 Ways, we help technology leaders solve challenging problems and create great digital products. We know how to help you find the right strategies that uniquely deliver what’s needed for you and your product. Scaling successfully requires a holistic strategy that caters to the specifics of your business needs.
What we showed you today will surely help you focus on the right questions and delineate the best path forward. Yet, the right strategy should be unique to your business and your product. So, if you want some further help applying these principles and steps to your product strategy, just get in touch with us now.

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Footnotes

  1. https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/02/3-key-secrets-to-building-extraordinary-teams/