Monthly Archives: July 2015

The 6 Factors that Influence Product Development Success + The Importance of Being Agile

riccardo_demarchi_500x500By Riccardo de Marchi Trevisan

At the recent Frontiers in Service conference in San Jose, CA, I had the pleasure of introducing a presentation from 3Pillar Global, Rockbridge Associates and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business that was up for the Best Practitioner award.

The presentation covered a study on factors that influence software product development success that was conducted in the second half of 2014. The study is based on interviews completed with more than 200 professionals in the software development space that have shared or full responsibility for software development purchasing and procurement. The participants represented mid-sized companies in sectors like banking, entertainment or healthcare, that used software products to augment their core services.

The study culminated in the development of a Product Development Success Index – or PDSI for short – that can help companies predict whether or not their development efforts will ultimately be successful.

What did the study find? One of the key outcomes was that it identified 6 key factors that influence whether or not a company will be successful at conceiving and developing new software products. The factors are not all as technology-related, as one might think, and some of them are in fact “softer” factors and are not technology-related at all.

PDSI6FactorsThe importance of the factors was found to be, in order of importance with the weight in parentheses:

Sub-Index Importance to Product Development Success Index

Perhaps the most interesting finding of the study is that Time & Budget, which are the 2 most traditional and quantifiable ways of measuring software projects, actually were shown to have minimal impact on a project’s overall success as defined by the study.

Another key takeaway is that leaders at companies the study found to be successful are committed to agile. Twenty-six percent of companies that the study found to be highly successful engaged in at least five agile practices, whereas none of the companies that were found to be rarely successful engaged in that many agile practices.

The measures of agile development that respondents to the study were asked included:

  • Length of time from idea to working software (3 weeks or less)
  • Whether new software is covered by automated tests
  • Frequency of review and re-planning priorities (every 3 weeks or more often)
  • Frequency of end user testing (every 3 weeks or more often)
  • Frequency of process improvement (every 3 weeks or more often)
  • Whether team members exchange information and learn from each other
  • Whether business and technical teams collaborate on software development projects

Another key finding from the study was that there is a perception gap inside companies between senior management (i.e., Vice President and higher titles) and those directly involved in development activities (i.e., Director or lower titles), which can have a profound effect on their overall success.

Professionals at the Vice President level or higher rate their company better on many areas of the PDSI and also believe their companies are performing better on a variety of software product development business goals. For example, 54% of senior executives say they are successful at meeting customer needs compared to 32% of more junior employees.

Contrary to this trend, Vice Presidents and higher report similar levels of performance on a variety of business outcome metrics, including revenue, brand perception, customer loyalty and customer growth. This indicates that while there is a shared consensus between rank and file and senior executives on the business success of their firms, the senior level professionals tend to be far more optimistic in their view of their organization’s success in new software product development.

One problem that may result from this perception gap is that senior decision-makers may ignore key problem areas that, if addressed, could improve their overall success. Similarly, the rank and file employees may fail to see the total picture, harboring an overly pessimistic viewpoint that could impact morale. Summing it up, this study provides valuable insights into how companies can bolster the success of their internal software development functions. This is an area of increasing importance to clients of 3 Pillar Global who rely on custom software solutions to drive their core business, improve customer value and create new revenue streams.

Please visit to learn more about the Product Development Success Study, get your organization’s own product development readiness grade, and read related content on how to build an organization that is optimized to build software successfully.


linkedinRiccardo de Marchi Trevisan is the Business Development Executive at 3Pillar Global. Previously, he worked for Forum One and Development Gateway, where he supported international governments, non-profits, and research institutions in the identification of solutions that can solve important issues related to the international development field. Riccardo is a seasoned technologist with experience in community engagement, digital communication, and international relations. He is a native of Trieste, Italy, and has an executive master’s degree in international services from American University and a J.D. from LUISS University in Rome.

Internet-of-Everything and the Future of Service

By Darima Fotheringham

Two weeks ago I attended Frontiers in Service, (#frontiersinservice) a global conference on service research. This year, the conference was sponsored by IBM and a lot of discussion was around the Internet-of-Things (IoT) or Internet-of-Everything, as it was frequently referred to. One of the presentations that I found especially interesting was by Irene Ng, Professor of Marketing and Service Systems and Head of Service Systems Research Group at the University of Warwick. She talked about smart technology, interconnectedness and data in a different context than the one that prevails in the IoT industry discussion. I found her perspective both simple and deeply profound. It highlighted a few important questions that I want share with you.

Technology developers are constantly pushing the envelope of what’s possible. However, it seems that in their fascination with the new technological capabilities, companies sometimes lose track of the most important element; humans as the ultimate customer and consumer of IoT. It is important to bring the human factor front and center into the design and use of smart things. IoT allows smart things to track and make use of large amounts of data, but it’s humans who are the integrators of data. It is not about our smart dishwashers being able to talk to our smart fridges. It’s about how these capabilities of smart appliances, and their “conversations”, can be integrated in our lives in a useful and empowering way.

We are generating vast amounts of data by using smart things, but we also give this data context, without which any data will be meaningless. Currently most of the data that’s being tracked is fragmented and owned by a few big players, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon. Opening access to the data and giving ownership back to the individuals can take IoT to the next level. Think of what you could do if you had access to the insights from the data that’s being collected about you across different service providers, and what new applications, new business models and services could be developed for us and with us. By the way, Irene Ng and her research team launched a project called Hub-of-All-Things, or HAT, to enable just that by creating a new platform powered by the IoT. I highly recommend checking it out. You can even sign up for your personal HAT to try, once it becomes available. Currently, it’s limited to UK and Singapore.

The new technological advances enable smarter things, smart phones, smart appliances, smart homes, which can do amazing things at a speed and accuracy that are outside of our ability. News reports share unnerving statistics about how many of our jobs will soon be taken by robots in the near future. For example, Gartner predicts that about one-third of jobs will be done by smart machines by 2025. Stories about the powers of AI make us believe that we are in direct competition with our smart devices. However, as Irene Ng pointed out in her presentation, a more useful approach is to view these smart things as amplifiers. They amplify and enable us to do more, by extending our capabilities. These smart objects are created by humans, for humans, and ultimately should be used to improve our lives. It brings to mind the example of the electronic spreadsheet invention, which eliminated hours of tedious manual calculations and transformed the industry. As a result some jobs were lost, but even more new ones were created and new horizons opened. NPR Planet Money did a great episode (Episode 606: Spreadsheets!) on this subject.

When you change the lens through which you look at smart things, it becomes clear that these objects are not smart on their own, they need collaboration with humans. It’s us, humans, who breathe life into these inanimate objects and make them smart. As humans, we operate in a complex social world, and it is not enough for the devices and products to be simply smart, they have to be “socially smart”, as Irene Ng puts it. She goes further to explain the meaning of “socially smart” in the context of smart objects:

  • It means co-creation, collaboration with a human. An object cannot be smart on its own, without a human input. Socially smart objects can amplify our abilities by removing or reducing our limitations and opening new possibilities that we co-create together. It is not about simply serving us ready-made solutions based on predictive analytics.
  • It means understanding context. We live complex and unpredictable lives, responding and reacting to a variety of different situations every day. Socially smart objects are able to fit in and amplify our capabilities within the context of each situation or scenario, independent of how consistent or irregular these situations or scenarios are.
  • “Socially smart” does not mean socially responsible. Socially smart objects can amplify to serve a good purpose or a harmful one, all without moral judgment. They have no intentions, positive or negative. The moral judgment is completely in the hands and minds of those who control the smart objects. Take the story about Uber tracking and sharing stats about one-night-stand rides of shame on one hand, and on the other hand, the story of online Syrian activists transforming the media, social movement, healthcare and financial services during the Arab Spring, as two very different examples of data use.

This Frontiers in Service presentation was a good reminder to bring the focus back to the customers, the humans who are the ultimate consumers of the smart IoT.  It also gives a lot of food for thought about the future of the fully connected world and the design of a socially smart IoT that will power new services. You can find more information about the HAT project and Irene Ng’s keynote presentation at Hub-of-All-Things website and watch the video of her presentation on YouTube.

While the Frontiers in Service conference is over, there is another conference focused on services that you may be interested in attending this year. It is the annual Compete Through Service Symposium (CTS) hosted by the Center for Services Leadership. It will take place in Scottsdale, AZ, on November 4-6, 2015. We hope to see you there!


Darima_headshotDarima Fotheringham is a Thought Leadership Program Manager at the Center for Services Leadership (CSL), W.P. Carey School of Business, ASU.

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From Products to Services and Solutions. Embracing Customer Centricity in B2B

Interview with Mary Jo Bitner and Stephen W. Brown, co-authors of the book “Profiting From Services and Solutions: What Product-Centric Firms Need to Know”. The interview was recorded in July, 2014, when the book first came out. To learn more about the Service Infusion Continuum framework introduced in the podcast, check out CSL webcast Profiting from Services and Solutions available on the CSL blog.

Podcast Transcript

This podcast was brought to you by the Center for Services Leadership, a ground-breaking research center in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. The Center for Services Leadership provides leading edge research and education in the science of service.

Darima Fotheringham: Today I’m joined by Professor Mary Jo Bitner, the Executive Director of the Center for Services Leadership at the W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, and with Emeritus Professor Steve Brown, Distinguished Faculty with the Center for Services Leadership and a Strategic Partner with the INSIGHT Group, a global services growth consulting firm.

Q: For those who may be new to the Center for Services Leadership, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your coauthors?

Mary Jo Bitner: We represent a 4 member faculty team that wrote this book together. We worked together on the research and the writing of the book from the very start to finish. One of the foundations for the book is a major research project that we did with 5 Fortune 100 companies seeking to understand their challenges, their successes and insights as they moved from being product-centric to customer-centric and service-centric firms. It was a long project, over multiple years. The co-author team is Steve Brown and myself, also Valerie Zeithaml, who is a Marketing professor at University of North Carolina. She’s internationally known for her work in Service Quality and Customer Equity and also in the work that we did for the book. Steve Brown is an Emeritus Professor of Marketing at ASU. He founded and led the Center for Services Leadership for over 25 years. Now he’s a consultant, author and an executive teacher focusing on helping firms in this area. Jim Salas is the fourth author of the book. He’s an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Pepperdine and he recently graduated with his PhD and his dissertation work focused on strategies helping firms move into services. And then myself, Marketing Professor here at ASU and Executive Director of the CSL. We worked together as a team of four from the beginning to the end and are very excited to have our book out.

Q: What inspired you to write “Profiting from Services and Solutions: What Product-Centric Firms Need to Know?”

Steve Brown: There are several things. One, of course, is working with all the member companies of the Center for Services Leadership. Many of them, over the years, came to Mary Jo and myself and others and talked about how they, being very product-centric companies, wanted to grow into services and solutions. This is probably the biggest catalyst for the research project that underlies the book. We also knew that there was relatively little known about this topic except anecdotally. And what the book tries to do is study in depth these 5 companies but also integrate some of the latest literature on this topic and then feature several rich examples from companies that have either gone through this transition or are going through this transition right now. Continue reading