Digital transformation involves changing the way we deliver our work. It’s a shift in focus from ‘projects and programs’ to ‘products and services’
Understanding products and services
This way of working, called ‘product management’, is all about delivering better outcomes. The key difference is that projects have a clear beginning and end, but products are continuously improved as user needs evolve or until the offering is no longer needed.
A service is a series of interactions that help someone do something like getting a passport, applying for a rebate, or finding out the weather. In this case, ‘service’ does not mean customer service, but rather the people, business processes and technologies involved to achieve an outcome.
A product is a tool created to deliver the service. It could be a web application, a policy, a set of procedures, or a combination of these. Products are created, maintained and then retired when no longer useful. Services are typically made up of multiple products.
A channel is a way users engage with a service. Channels can be online (for example, web pages, chatbots, email or social media) or offline (for example, mail, telephone or face-to-face shopfronts).
A simple way to work out if something is a product or service is to describe it. The service is a verb, the product is a noun.
For example, the service may be ‘helping young Australian artists’ and the product may be a ‘grant’. Or the service is ‘lodging a claim’ and the products are both the policy and the tool that helps people lodge their claims.
Product management provides:
- greater visibility of what is being developed, including opportunities for re-use or simplification
- improved insights into why the product is being developed
- greater opportunity to learn and adapt
- greater return on investment because the product is designed to meet user needs
- more effective long-term management
- greater opportunities to collaborate and leverage existing channels because there is greater visibility over how products and services connect
Projects vs products and services
A project is a way of achieving an outcome by setting a predefined scope, timeframe and budget. Examples of projects include website redevelopments or the purchase and deployment of a new piece of software.
While projects are common, they have limitations. Projects often focus on outputs (completing work on time, within budget or scope) as the method to measure success.
A strong component of product management is ongoing measuring, testing and learning. This helps demonstrate what outcomes and benefits have been gained and what needs to be improved. It makes it easier for teams to release new features, engage with users and remain current with technology.
- have a beginning and an end date
- focus on deliverables (the thing being built) and outputs (time, budget, scope)
- require extensive forward planning
- are commonly transferred to a BAU team upon completion
- are rarely funded or prioritised for further improvement (once in BAU).
Products and services:
- have no strict end date
- focus on outcomes (benefits realised and lessons learned)
- are maintained until no longer needed or viable
- are continuously improved based on user feedback
- are ideally managed by the same team who designed and built them
- are funded long-term as required.
Getting started with product and services
Examine the user journey
Explore which services and products your agency is responsible for and check they are being managed and delivered based on user needs.
Document a clear owner for each service and product your agency is responsible for. Set a high-level, outcomes-based vision for the service, but don’t be prescriptive about how your teams achieve it.
Know how your service interacts with other services, products and channels, especially across agencies and third-party providers. Begin to view services as part of life events.
Focus on outcomes
Commit to ways of working that deliver value early and often.
Consider how you will measure the success of your service early. Collect data and report publicly.
Resource for products and services in government
Learn more about products and services with the following links.
- The DTA examines the delivery of government services and products in Own the whole user experience.
- Atlassian looks at product delivery from an agile perspective in Product management.
Join our products and services community
You'll find more resources, advice and support in the Digital Profession's Product Management and Delivery Community. It's an open and safe space to connect with peers, share experiences, ask questions and help solve common problems.