Product development vs professional services

Scrum was created based on the legendary paper here titled “The New New Product Development Game”. Notice that the word “new” is repeated twice emphasizing the target is for NPD. In our fast turnaround market, an NPD should not last more than 6 months and I suggest to have break-even within maximum of 6 months from completing the development.A product should have a vision which is shared with management for what finally we hope to realize from embarking in its development. The vision does not only dictate product features but more than that it establishes management and communication practices. For example, if the vision is to sell the product as value-add on our client’s existing offerings to its users, then this would establish the need to create agreement with clients.

I digressed!! but a bit. Back to the purpose of this post. How to decide if the software development team does product development vs professional services? My answer is If we can’t begin investing in development unless we have client request, then, I suggest it’s professional services otherwise we have product development. This understanding came from observing various teams who produce software and all of them used Kanban or Scrum.

If the company strategy is to become professional services, it can have the following traits:

  • Empowering PMO
  • No product licensing agreement
  • Increase the count of coordination and project management roles
  • Invest in client software services
  • Software development can become low profile function within client services
  • Embark in extensive agreements with clients and vendors
  • Product road map and release plan are non meaningful, and if they exist they are always bypassed by ad-hoc client requests.

If the company strategy is to become product development, it can have the following traits:

  • Empowering technology, product management and software teams.
  • Company have clear product licensing agreement and professional service policy.
  • Coordination functions become secondary to facilitate client servicing.
  • Product road map and release plan are powerful organizational tools.
  • Ad-hoc requests are addressed under maintenance using appropriate approach (e.g. Kanban)

Product managers don’t have place in professional services companies, they can be replaced by implementation consultants.

5 thoughts on “Product development vs professional services

  1. Thanks for your question Kelvin.

    Yes, that were for software development companies. It’s a management mind-set whether to become product companies or professional services driven. I found this distinction between professional services and product development had immense impact on the software development groups and other client facing groups.


  2. Kanban vs Roadmap

    I agree with the need for a Roadmap for strategic planning. And I agree with Kanban for flow implementation. But there is an impedance between Roadmaps and Queues. And often Roadmaps require the same resources for estimates (and slotting rough time slots) as do the Kanban development teams.

    So, how would you juxtapose the Roadmap process vs core development process?

    Separate Kanban for each?

    One not Kanban, one Kanban?

    And how to control the pilfering of core development process resources for the endless re-estimation games involved in Roadmap discussions?

    • Thanks Carl for your comment.

      The message in this post was for companies drifting from being product focused to become professional services focused with the product teams providing secondary services.

      As of your point, I prefer to model the Value Stream which can include the various states from client request to delivery. Those states can be development, services, integration or others. For example, normally the product development is followed by deployment services that I suggest to be part of the Value Stream.

      However, each team should have its own visual board to model its work. Please see this post

      From my view product roadmap is a separate activity done by the product managers however it’s the driver for the release plan. Release plan is required in Scrum but optional in Kanban. In Kanban the team doesn’t commit on certain delivery at the end of the sprint.

  3. I have worked at product companies most of my life, and I have never seen a product company without a professional services organization.
    There are two distinct groups in every product organization where one group develops the Road maps and the other implements it usually with customization.
    Unfortunately they often behave like two distinct companies and have completely different focus and things starts to fall apart for customers. I think from a customer’s angle they would like to see “product management and professional Servies” rather than “product management vs professional services”.

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