Our Vision for the Future of Work for Digital Product Teams

Posted on  

December 6, 2021

Published by: Codemonk

Digital product development has seen several methodologies over the years. First came the waterfall approach that delivers projects in sequential phases with fixed deliverables and scope of work. Teams later created iterative waterfall methods that allowed the designing, prototyping, coding, and testing for each story to be undertaken as a miniature project in repeating cycles. It offered more flexibility than the historic waterfall. Product development was disrupted once more with the introduction of agile methodology, which shortened development cycles from weeks or months to hours or days. Agile showed that development and deployment can be done differently. The transformation from waterfall to agile methodologies occurred within around 25 years and moved digital product teams from a lack of collaboration to extensive and regular collaboration.

The transformation from waterfall to agile was not a matter of choice but was rather an inevitable change to help teams survive and thrive in a highly competitive marketplace. As the competition in the field increased, teams were forced to adopt the most flexible methodologies to shorten their development cycles and beat competitors to market. You either change and win or resist and lose. Modern product-led companies also need to be highly responsive to the prevailing situation in the market, the ever-increasing level of competition, and the changes in the ecosystem as a whole. For example, e-commerce extended the reach of giant players like Amazon deep into protected local markets on the other side of the world. It exposed small local stores and regional heavyweights to stiff competition for the first time, which forced them to expand their brick-and-mortar stores online. Now, online stores are adopting 3D configurators, AR, and VR technologies to fend off strong competitors in the e-commerce marketplace. Adopting new technologies and processes to adapt to emerging issues is a never-ending cycle. Based on the trend so far, we can only imagine how product-led companies will be operating in the future.

It is not surprising to see so many products led companies have disrupted many traditional industries. In the entertainment industry, Netflix vs. Blockbuster provides a learning opportunity for product teams that resist change. Now, streaming is synonymous with the entertainment sector thanks to Netflix’s disruptive business model. It recognized the power of data and analytics long before “data-driven” was a buzzword. On the other hand, Blockbuster resisted change and faded into oblivion. While Blockbuster stuck to the traditional video rental business, Netflix collaborated with disruptors like Amazon to develop a world-class back-end infrastructure. Collaboration with AWS for cloud-based operations and other third-party firms catapulted Netflix from a mail-order subscription company to the leading streaming service platform. Uber vs. minicab companies and TransferWise vs. banks highlight how even the most traditional industries are not immune to major disruptions.

From Netflix to Uber, TransferWise, Uber, Didi, Airbnb, and many more, all these disruptive modern companies are platforms that bring multiple parties together and facilitate the friction-less transaction through it. While most companies shy away from depending on a competitor, these companies saw the value in emerging technologies and collaborated with leading providers of disruptive solutions, like the cloud, payment services, and data analytics. The coming together of all these parties has enabled Netflix to streamline transactions and sharpen its recommendation engine and refine personalization. Uber’s platform also enabled seamless collaboration with third parties to deliver accessible and flexible mobility to modern consumers. Effective collaborations on robust platforms enable modern companies to simplify the complexities created by outdated and over-regulated monopolistic systems in their sectors. They grow through network effects and yield immense competitive advantage over traditional players. It is no surprise that the first trillion-dollar public companies and the most valuable companies in the world are platform-based.

While these platforms have enabled companies to build extensive ecosystems of third-party firms and individual contractors, it is ironic that the way to build digital teams has not transformed over the years. The hiring process to acquire top talent and build digital teams is still old school with traditional employer-employee relations. What has changed is just the way you recruit. You have highly advanced tools, more tests, and more data but the recruitment process still relies primarily on traditional approaches. This is a major weakness because the pace of your hiring process can undercut your company’s technological and data-driven advantage. Your time to hire and overall hiring cycle should be very short for you to exploit your advantage and grow through network effects more effectively. Unfortunately, the pace of traditional hiring processes cannot keep up or support the requirements of modern digital product development.

Hiring processes that are tightly linked to employer-employee relations expose both the employer and the employee to a wide range of issues, which undermine overall success. Firstly, employers still have to go through a long hiring cycle and waste resources and time on traditional applicant-tracking processes like job postings, reviewing resumes, and sorting through applications. This process is slow and outdated, which makes it difficult for employers to build fluid teams to support their ever-changing needs. Although technology has enabled extensive cost-cutting in other areas of business, the hiring cost is still mostly a fixed cost because it is associated with the time spent by recruiters, HR, and managers on the lengthy traditional hiring process. It is accrued regardless of whether the hiring process is successful or not. Furthermore, employers still have to undertake a variety of time-consuming tasks to ensure their hiring process comply with regulations. For example, you may be forced to go through the Fair Labour Standards Act for guidance on how to classify the vacancy as exempt or non-exempt and define the exemption status accurately. As we all know, the benefits of tapping into a global remote talent pool outweigh hiring locally. Unfortunately, the traditional hiring process restricts employers to the limited local talent pool.

For employees, still have to grapple with the effects of the employer-employee relations that define the workplace and how they work. Despite the availability of robust technological tools, employees still have to commute to and from the office every workday and work within a physical office environment. This outdated model assigns the employer the role of a principal while the employee is merely an agent of their employer, which limits their individualism, performance, and creativity. You cannot focus on doing your best or being creative if you are merely an agent of your employer. Employer-employee relations also force employees to accept whatever benefits that the employer provides instead of pursuing their interests and what is best for them. Lastly, the fact that employers focus on acquiring talent locally means that employees’ options and employment opportunities are limited to the local pool of companies.

The recent health crisis has forced both employers and employees to reassess their relationships. It revealed the weaknesses and shortcomings of the traditional employer-employee relations more vividly than ever before. Employers have realized that old school hiring practices will not cut it in the highly competitive marketplace of the future. For employees, the health crisis revealed the need to expand their horizons to access opportunities beyond their localities. Modern employers and employees are re-evaluating how they engage with each other.

Hence, we think it is about time that we change the way digital product teams are built. To compete more favourably in the future, you can leverage the services of a talent marketplace like CodeMonk with expertise in high-skill digital product development to help you adopt sustainable practices and build fluid teams more efficiently. Sustainable processes are the most effective way to meet your company’s highly dynamic needs and maximize your technological advantage.

At CodeMonk, we are a talent marketplace on a mission to enable product-led companies to build high-performing digital teams as per their ever-changing requirements and ecosystems. Visit www.codemonk.ai for more information.

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