Accelerating and improving digital product delivery in your organisation

Yafaa Ahres

Discover how your teams can overcome workflow bottlenecks and blockers to deliver better digital products, faster – and how an external consultancy can help you.

As customer expectations on your organisation grow, the pressure to bring world-class digital offerings to market quickly also increases. But the complexity of today’s digital products means that many teams struggle to meet the demands of the business and its customers – faced with multiple obstacles to productivity.

So how can your organisation rise to the challenge – and accelerate delivery of high-quality digital products that delight customers and meet business objectives?

Gaining the benefits of Agile product delivery

Most digital product delivery processes today are run using Agile software development methodology. Agile focuses on improving product delivery through the collaborative work of self-organising and cross-functional teams. Agile delivery teams will work responsively, collaboratively, pragmatically – and with focus on user and customer needs. 

As well as software engineers, Agile teams may include designers, product managers, strategists and other cross-functional specialists. They may also include experts in quality assurance (QA) and user acceptance testing (UAT).

Engineers and designers within Agile product delivery teams progress iteratively through regular work cycles or sprints. Scrum is a popular framework used in Agile delivery, in which a team will have daily “stand-up” meetings to share their progress and agree what they need to achieve in upcoming days and future sprints for the efficient development of the product.

Building a culture of Agile teamwork

Demand for accelerated delivery of advanced digital products is increasingly the norm. In this respect, Agile delivery helps you meet both customer and business needs.

By adopting Agile methodology, you can gain competitive advantage in a fast-moving business environment. Companies that use Agile development practices can meet growing customer expectations and innovate with new technology, bringing best-in-class digital solutions to market.

With an Agile mindset, your organisation can learn from setbacks. Your teams can embrace complexity, adapt to market changes, drive iterative improvements, strengthen collaborative working – and accelerate delivery of value for customers and the business. Agile helps you positively transform team culture, encourage innovation, and overcome productivity blockages to product delivery.

Agile development helps you focus on outcomes by improving team engagement. When your team’s engagement level increases, motivation and performance follow. Agile delivery builds team engagement by promoting autonomy, encouraging mastery of skills, and creating shared purpose.

Releasing digital products early and often

Teams using Agile methods will focus on quickly delivering digital products that provide value to your organisation and customers. 

Rather than following a grand long-term plan with a final “big bang” product delivery, their ethos is to release early – and release often. They will prefer fast and frequent releases of functionality, with incremental improvements and continuous optimisation.

Delivering early and frequent releases provides user feedback earlier, so any required “course corrections” can be made sooner during development. Any problems become easier to identify and resolve in these smaller changesets.

Releasing regularly encourages the use of automation to replace repetitive manual tasks, as well as strict version control and configuration management. Large and potentially daunting projects can be split into a series of stages, each delivering specific valuable features. Code-level integrations are simpler, with no long-term development branches and merges required. With this approach, your teams can rapidly deliver powerful digital products that provide value from the very first release.

Facing the challenges of Agile working

While many organisations have adopted Agile working methods, many struggle to implement them successfully over the longer term – sliding away from best practice back to more traditional project behaviours. This can soon result in the emergence of more and more blockers to efficient product delivery.

In this situation, organisations can accelerate product delivery and streamline Agile processes by working with a specialist digital product consultancy.

Improving your delivery process and productivity

A digital product consultancy can help your organisation increase efficiency and productivity across your product delivery workflows and operations. Their work encompasses the orchestration and optimisation of people, processes, and skills to maximise product delivery at scale. It addresses the challenges of building and growing effective delivery teams with the required skills.

Boosting team productivity is important for accelerating and improving your product delivery – with new tooling and processes emerging and evolving to help. Productivity can be a complicated area to navigate, whether defining, measuring, or looking to improve – but it is a necessary area of focus for any company with product delivery operations.

A consultancy can help you identify and overcome the bottlenecks and blockers in your delivery workflows – conducting research, interviews and workshops to identify causes of congestion that may be hindering productivity.

Getting an outside perspective on product delivery

Your organisation’s internal product teams may build familiar and comfortable ways of working over time. This creates strong teams – but can limit your product thinking to repeating the status quo.

Working with an external consultancy can help open your teams up to an outside perspective on product delivery. This helps you challenge, rethink and improve your approach. It lets you see your products the way that users and customers will view them, so you can more accurately meet their needs.

A consultancy can help you broaden product insights by involving other stakeholders from across your organisation in product delivery. With consultative workshops and working groups, you can build collaboration across the business and validate your product decisions.

You can also widen your viewpoint by talking to real-world users and customers – and even testing high-fidelity interactive prototypes with them to gain feedback.

Your consultancy will have a good overview of the market, so you can see how your competitors approach similar challenges. You can also gain ideas from other industries that can inspire new possibilities for your own product delivery.

Bringing the best talent to your product team

To successfully deliver outstanding digital products, your organisation needs the right skilled people. The truth is that these kinds of talented people want to work in a modern Agile team environment – not on old-style inefficient projects.

Agile teams are self-organised and self-managed – with greater autonomy over their own decisions and actions. This makes them highly motivated to deliver better results in development projects. Any problems, blockers or issues are identified and discussed in daily scrum sessions – to aid swift resolution and ensure streamlined product development.

The Agile working environment is also more enjoyable for team members than traditional project approaches. People can discuss the best actions to advance the project, and have the autonomy to make and act on their own decisions.

Your people will find that an Agile team is a much more inspiring and rewarding work environment – since it encourages their active participation and collaboration in delivering better digital products.

A specialist digital product consultancy can help you locate and recruit the right talent for your in-house teams. They can also provide the services of their own expert delivery professionals, enabling your organisation to access the right talent exactly when needed – without the challenges of finding, managing and retaining this rare resource in-house.

Real-world example: How Mastercard accelerates digital product delivery

Achieving success in growing digital product areas can create fresh challenges to overcome, as Mastercard recently discovered. The global payments technology company works to connect and power an inclusive digital economy – by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible across more than 210 countries worldwide.

Transforming a complex and inefficient delivery process

Mastercard faced a challenge to meet the growing market demand for its prepaid card services. The prepaid card team creates digital products for corporate clients that enable them to run their own prepaid card programmes. 

A key problem was that the team’s testing process was siloed from the rest of the development process. This lack of visibility and collaboration meant they were unable to respond effectively to demand. The team was also very under-resourced and lacked senior input from the business.

Working with experts in digital product delivery

Mastercard engaged London-based digital product consultancy Elsewhen as a strategic partner to clarify the underlying symptoms of the problem. 

The consultancy worked to enhance and accelerate Mastercard’s product delivery and user acceptance testing (UAT) processes – based on its extensive experience in quality assurance (QA) and wider strategy. They made a set of recommendations to help Mastercard implement positive change. They established and rolled out an implementation plan for Mastercard to achieve rapid improvements to team structure, methods and workflows.

Key issues identified by the consultancy to address included:

  • Resourcing: The teams were too under-resourced, and lacked clear oversight of the process.

  • Collaboration: UAT teams were siloed, with insufficient use of collaboration techniques.

  • Product practices: Too much manual activity and duplication of work was happening, with issues being found late, and insufficient test automation.

Following a phased path to better delivery

Mastercard and the consultancy undertook a 12-week engagement on the project, with work in three strategic phases:

1. Assess: They conducted a detailed assessment of the current internal state of play. This involved mapping out each stage of the current processes, the key pain points and their impacts – and the causes behind these issues. They interviewed team members and stakeholders, building trust and hearing their perspectives on the problems.

2. Recommend: With the insights gained, they developed recommendations for Mastercard on building an improved team structure, defining new roles and responsibilities. On a broader strategic scope, they also identified ways to Improve wider delivery practices.

3. Implement: Finally, they developed a practical plan for Mastercard to implement the recommendations. This included an in-depth handover to equip the teams with the required insights, skills and methodologies. The consultancy also helped the prepaid business recruit its first specialist delivery director, to drive and oversee the process.

Building more efficient delivery pipelines and teams

Mastercard’s teams had faced a ‘brain drain’ caused by staff turnover and over-reliance on contractors. The consultancy recommended skilled new hires in the areas of the bottlenecks – bringing leadership and knowledge to open the lines of communication between teams. 

In terms of team structure, they recommended better alignment of UAT with product owners and Scrum teams, with a UAT analyst for every two teams. They also clarified how the Agile Scrum process should operate.

Finally they recommended that Mastercard’s teams “shift ‘left” along the timeline – starting testing, collaboration and risk assessment earlier in the development process. They also encouraged more automation of testing, rather than the reliance on manual regression testing.

Enabling better, faster delivery with less effort

The consultancy was proactive on Mastercard’s team resourcing issues, helping the firm hire the right people – including a senior leader – by putting together a detailed process to follow.

By reinforcing how testing should operate, they provided a structure for better and earlier collaboration in the wider product processes employed at Mastercard. This has enabled quicker, more rigorous testing – so any problem is caught earlier, by teams empowered to resolve it. 

The primary outcome of the consultancy’s work was a much better product process throughout, as well as key improvements to the QA and UAT layers. For example, the introduction of automated end-to-end regression testing has reduced UAT effort by 87.5%, – helping to accelerate delivery and assure quality for Mastercard.

As Rich Cole, Vice President of Strategy & Enablement at Mastercard, says: “The consultancy quickly understood and located our underlying business challenges, built out strategic recommendations – and gave us the keys to bring about long-term transformation in the business.”

Explore our case study to learn more

Find out more about how Elsewhen helped payments leader Mastercard accelerate digital product delivery. 

Read the case study

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