Unveiling the Truth: A Tech CEO Perspective – Most Products Are in Fact Projects

9 Red Flags to Look For, Plus 9 Proven Ways to Enhance Product Development

By Leon Ginsburg, Founder and CEO, Sphere Partners

You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “That meeting could have been an email.” Maybe you’ve even said it yourself after wasting an hour in a room over something that could have been settled in a few keystrokes.

As the founder and CEO of a global technology consulting and software engineering firm, here’s another reality of modern business I see far too often: Most products that companies say they’re developing are really just projects.

It’s true that the lines between products and projects can be blurry in our fast-paced and ever-evolving business landscape. But if you as a tech leader can identify the key indicators of misclassifying projects as products — and in turn emphasize an enhanced approach to product development — you will empower your teams to flourish and deliver tangible value to your customers.

9 Red Flags of Projects Disguised as Products

Be on the lookout for any or a combination of these risks to determine if a product is really just a project:

1. No Discovery. Initiating action before evaluating and validating ideas can lead to failed products that do not meet customer needs.
2. No Market Research. Products should be developed with a clear understanding of the market and relevant competition.
3. No Ownership. Without a clear product owner or manager, it’s likely a project. A product owner is crucial for steering the team and making key decisions.

At Launch
4. No Strategy. Chasing every opportunity and trying to satisfy every customer request might seem like a good plan, but it often leads to unfocused efforts and diluted value propositions.
5. No Editing. When development teams implement bells and whistles without questioning their purpose or impact, it becomes a feature factory, lacking the true essence of product thinking.
6. No Iterating. Collecting all requirements in an initial phrase — the waterfall approach — without considering iteration is a classic sign of a project-oriented mindset.

7. No User Feedback. Without a mechanism in place to gather user feedback and incorporate it into the process, the initiative is likely a project, not a product. Products evolve based on user needs and feedback.
8. No Analytics. Lacking insights into how customers use something makes it challenging to make informed decisions and improve the offering.
9. No Post-Launch Plan. If there’s no plan for what happens after the “product” is launched, it’s probably a project. Products require ongoing support, updates, and improvements.

Once you’ve identified the ways that projects are masquerading as products within your teams, it’s time to shift your attention to ways to bolster true product development. Read on for proven steps that can lead to better products from your company and for your customers.

Learn How Sphere Can Help Bolster Your Product Development Team

9 Ways to Enhance Product Development

You can think of these tips in three main groups: those that engage your employees and customers; those that validate assumptions, research, and experiments; and those that deliver your team’s efforts to external audiences.

1. Empower Cross-Functional Teams. Let them solve problems and make decisions collaboratively.
2. Continuously Discover Products. Engage the Product Manager, Product Designer, and Lead Engineer in ongoing product discovery to ensure alignment with customer needs.
3. Respect Market and Value Proposition. Make educated tradeoffs to prioritize what to build and what not to build, focusing on your unique value proposition.

4. Commit Wisely. Lock in delivery dates only after thorough discovery and avoid making promises too early in the process.
5. Manage Risk Through Experimentation. Mitigate value, usability, feasibility, and viability risks by conducting experiments and tests before full implementation.
6. Validate Risky Assumptions. Test the riskiest assumptions before committing resources to ensure you are building the right product.

7. Follow an Outcome-Based Roadmap. Focus on delivering outcomes rather than just features. The Now-Next-Later approach allows for adaptability.
8. Make Metrics-Driven Decisions. Choose, implement, and track the right metrics to gain meaningful insights and inform decision-making.
9. Deliver Incrementally. Ship product increments and measure outcomes to learn from real-world usage.

Leading Teams Away from Projects and Toward Products

By recognizing the red flags that often mark projects pretending to be products and adopting better practices, companies can unlock their true potential for delivering valuable and innovative solutions.

Embracing a genuine product mindset with continuous discovery and data-driven decision-making will pave the way for lasting success in the dynamic market landscape. Remember: It’s not just about creating products — it’s about delivering meaningful experiences that resonate with customers worldwide.

Let’s Talk About Product Development Strategy

No one wants to be in a meeting that could have been an email. And no one wants to spin their wheels and waste resources on a product that’s really a project.

Are you ready to redefine your product development strategy? Reach out to our team at Sphere for a consultation, and let’s start transforming your projects into game-changing products.

Related Articles