Product Team as a Service: a new approach to IT consulting
20tab is configured as a Product Team as a Service. But what does this actually mean? Let me explain it to you in this article.
With “Product Team as a Service” (PTaaS) we mean a modern approach to IT consulting. An approach still adopted by few companies, due to the practical and financial difficulties in building a high-value interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary team.
According to this model, in fact, an already performing team composed of every role necessary for the development of a digital product (developers, designers, testers, product managers, marketers, etc.), with a Lean/Agile mindset, works closely with the client to help him/her achieve his/her goals, according to a flexible time frame or budget determined by the client.
An advantage for the latter, who breaks free from the burden of having to organize an internal interdisciplinary team, hard to create and very expensive to maintain, focusing only on its core business instead.
1. What does “as a Service” mean
The concept of something "as a Service" generally means providing the benefits of this something to a client, without him/her having to deal with expensive equipment, staff, facilities or other long-term investments, traditionally necessary to be able to benefit from it.
In the IT field it is used to indicate a series of services that, particularly with the advent of Cloud Computing and high-speed connections, it is no longer necessary to manage and install on your servers or local machines, but can be rented and used "remotely" only for the time necessary. Without having to worry about management costs, security, updates and any other type of procedure that is necessary for the operation.
Among the most common examples there are SaaS (Software as a Service), Paas (Platform as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). This category includes all cloud services that allow you to manage your applications, databases, etc. without the need for any infrastructure (including the main Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, DigitalOcean, Microsoft Azure), and most of the software that does not require a complete installation beside that of a client through which we can use them, often a simple browser.
Even well-known platforms such as Netflix, Salesforce, Dropbox or Adobe Creative Cloud can be considered full-fledged SaaS, because they respect the scalability criteria (you can benefit from them by installing only a part of the software), flexible subscription, accessibility (the service is available on every device, continuously), persistence (the software does not need maintenance and is updated automatically).
Warning: the acronym PTaaS also indicates the Penetration Test as a Service, a service used to test the security of a computer system or a network.
From a user/customer point of view, one of the main advantages is in the quality of the service, fully delegated to a specialized company, especially in relation to an extremely low cost compared to the formation of a proprietary team.
In the case of cloud services for hosting and deploying applications, for example, you can take advantage of an infrastructure like Amazon, with an advanced level of security and guarantees on the continuity of the service, for a relatively low monthly cost. How much would it cost a company to create and maintain infrastructure like the one offered by Amazon?
The same goes for the concepts of “proprietary e-commerce” vs “SaaS e-commerce”: creating a platform of this kind has very high costs, in terms of budget, time and skills. Doing the same thing, relying on Shopify for example, appears to be a much simpler task with fewer zeros.
Perhaps the case is even more evident taking Netflix as an example, which offers a huge catalog that is constantly updated at an extremely low monthly cost. How much would a Netflix customer pay in a year if he/she had to buy all the content he/she watches individually?
1.3 The “focus” advantage
Focus deserves a special mention, a perhaps less debated topic.
Every company, as it should be, focuses (or at least should focus) on maximizing profits, optimizing costs and planning investments to maintain the evolutionary pace of its market. It will train its employees and collaborators in that field, will take part in conventions or conferences, will try to exploit the most recent methodologies or products and so on.
For a digital product team it's the same thing, in the field of software development, IT security, marketing and growth, communication, product management. Continuous improvement in these areas is the focus of the product team, while the company that uses its services will have to focus on doing better only what it is supposed to.
Successfully pursuing both fronts internally could result in a huge effort and excessive cost increases, or on the contrary, poor software production. Having a Product Team as a Service instead, is like having a second company but without these concerns, thus obtaining only the positive sides, the opportunities it offers thanks to its constant research in innovation and the benefits that can be drawn from its performances.
2. What does “Product Team” means
2.1 Product VS Project
There are many articles that address this topic, but trying to summarize and grasp the nuances of interest for this article, it could be simplified in this way:
- a Project takes place with a well-defined time and budget, precise requirements, a team created specifically to follow it from start to finish. Success is measured by how well the initial analyzes were respected;
- a Product, on the contrary, has the purpose of producing value for those who will use it. Constantly iterating to find the right way, evolving indefinitely until the effort is justified by the results, without a proper goal, other than user satisfaction and loyalty to the company's business model.
For this reason, it is very important for a Product to have a clear vision of the problem that is going to solve and the impact that must be generated on all the actors involved, not how to do it. There are no requirements to be implemented, just ideas to be validated, trying to reach an adequate result in the shortest possible time and then improving indefinitely and continuously.
2.2 How is a Product Team made up
To successfully carry out a product, the number of highly specialized skills needed is very high:
- a Product Manager who knows how to grasp the business goals of the stakeholders, interpret the users’ behavior and, based on this, point out the priorities in the activities to be performed, communicating with the rest of the team;
- a UX expert who leads the research into problem solving and the best user experience;
- a Tech Lead able to develop the solution to be validated;
- designers, software architects, frontend and backend developers, systems engineers, data analysts, business analysts, testers, copywriters, marketers, as well as any figures relating to specific areas as appropriate;
- a Delivery Manager who takes care of optimizing the work of the whole team.
Having qualified figures in each of these roles is very expensive, it requires a high ability in choosing the best collaborators and a mindset aimed at continuous improvement and evolution, because the skills required by each of these roles evolve rapidly.
3. Product-oriented skills
We have seen that the roles required are many, but it is crucial for the whole team to have a culture oriented to the product, to iterative implementation, to a data-driven approach with constant feedback from users, to execution speed.
With the help of the methodologies born and developed in the last few decades, we can mention the following:
- Lean and Customer Development for the more strategic part of analyzing one's goals, the issues to be solved and therefore the users to whom it refers;
- Design Thinking and Lean UX for the study of the user experience, design and solution validation;
- Agile Software Development for the approach to the development of iterative code, the definition of priorities to be followed and the focus on quality, tests, reusability of the components created;
- DevOps for the definition and configuration of the continuous delivery process that aims to speed up the feedback cycle, increase quality and reduce time-to-market;
- Growth Marketing to structure growth-oriented experiments, hypothesis validation, objective data-driven strategic choices.
4. Differences between PTaaS and other solutions (Internal Hiring, Body Rental, Dev Outsourcing or Consulting)
Generally speaking, we could say that Product Team as a Service (PTaaS) promotes a holistic view of the digital products making process: all components are crucial, and the absence of one could compromise the success of the entire operation.
An approach to a more traditional IT consultancy, on the other hand, usually focuses on single components: a single developer ‘fed’ to a client, as in body rental, or a technical component delegated to an external team for the creation of a website or a social campaign. This is not necessarily wrong, as long as all other components exist and the general point of view is not missed.
As already mentioned, making this team cohesive and efficient could take a long time, just like hiring all the necessary professionals internally would be instead very expensive.
At 20tab we love to work on products that have a real impact on the targeted users, products that can be seen as an advantage for the clients who commission them.
We feel directly responsible for successes and possible failures - to be brought out as quickly as possible in order to change direction in due time - and we believe that all this is possible only if the whole working team is cohesive and coherent with the principles discussed above.
This is why we have evolved our offer towards that of Product Team as a Service, so that our clients can focus only on their business and on what they do best, having all the advantages of a Product team without the difficulties of having to structure and manage it internally. Let us worry about that.