Pivot, Pilot, and Adapt


Product Managers, usually blame this lack of visibility into blinding, brisk, roller-coaster shifts in user demand and market preferences (sometimes correctly) on existing tools, structures, and processes for their apparent inability to analyze, predict, and provide insight into usage trends, patterns, and forecasts. However, over-reliance on cookie-cutter analysis and responses to deal with unforeseen situations increases the possibility of failure, and not all situations can be solved by a silver-bullet approach. Sadly, it's not only businesses but also social institutions such as universities, banks, and courts that function in an Industrial Age mindset, with order and operational efficiency as the primary goal without any appreciation for the flux that exists in the marketplace. They tend to fail in their attempts to handle the disruptive turbulence and ambiguity of our current times.

The following real-world examples further articulate the fallacies of experienced product teams using silver-bullet solutions with limited understanding of customer needs and wants and/or little analysis of unintended business consequences.

Example 1: Increase Top-line Revenue at the Expense of Debit Card Fees
Recently, Bank of America took a few weeks to respond and reverse its decision to charge customers fees for debit card usage. The bank undermined its customers by attempting to force them into a situation that may have been good for the bank's bottom line but was not attractive to its customers. This encouraged other banks like JPMorgan Chase, PNC Financial, and CitiGroup to stop—and in some cases reverse—their experiments with debit card usage fees and to offer incentives to customers to use debit cards more.The late reaction by the banks may be an example of their senior policy makers’ inability or unwillingness to quickly embrace customer feedback and change their course of action, resulting in substantial damage in brand value

It also resulted in a movement to transfer money from the “Big Six” banks to community banks and credit unions, as well as providing smaller online banks the opportunity to run aggressive pro-customer campaigns.

Introducing bold, stupid, and risky market changing shifts is necessary to analyze, understand, and reshape the tolerance limits of an existing consumer base. However, not building in sufficient risk mitigation within such experiments increases the probability of severely damaging outcomes if the experiments go wrong.

About the author

Anupam Kundu's picture Anupam Kundu

Anupam Kundu is currently employed as a lead consultant with ThoughtWorks North America. In the current role, Anupam’s goal is to help clients get the most bang for their buck in developing new and innovative products following lean/agile software development principles and practices.

Anupam has more than thirteen years of experience in various stages of software development life-cycle and post-implementation activities as a programmer, business analyst, project/program manager, and change management consulting.

About the author

Maneesh Subherwal's picture Maneesh Subherwal

As Market Principal in Northern UK, Maneesh Subherwal serves ThoughtWorks out of the Manchester office in Europe, with over a decade of execution and delivery experience in Change Management and Optimization, and Information Technology Product Development and services. Maneesh brings extensive experience in planning, managing and driving complex products, projects, programs, and portfolios in a wide variety of business domains.

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