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Intelligent Products

Charting a course to building Intelligent Products

By Slalom Build

Looking to move into Intelligent Products? Let’s plot a course.

Note: this is part three in our series on Intelligent Products. For a refresher, read up on what intelligent products are here. Then dig deeper into what they can do for your business, here. For a more complete picture of what intelligent products can do for you, download the full whitepaper.

Earlier, we defined intelligent products as an ecosystem of integrated capabilities working together to continuously create more powerful, meaningful, and performant products over time and at scale.

Then in Building Your Future with Intelligent Products, we shared that many companies are taking steps to start building intelligent products.

Fortunately, the journey to building intelligent products, while daunting, is actually accessible to anyone willing to make the leap. Whether beginning with a singular intelligent feature or running an entire intelligent product-based business with the full ecosystem of technology, intelligence, experience, and operations, the key is to understand some important considerations businesses typically encounter.

We’ll walk through the most common points of entry, then go into some of the things to think about and plan for, in order to set yourself up for success.

Three points of entry

So how to get started? Well, rest assured, building intelligent products is doable, no matter what stage a business finds itself in. Here are the three most common stages, but understand this is not a regimented, prescribed order. Wherever you are, well, that’s a great place to start.

Early stage: Focus on features

Looking for an achievable way to begin developing the capability of intelligence while up leveling an existing experience? Many companies test the waters by adding intelligent technology to a small part of their product.

Often, updating existing product features to be more customized to users starts with a recognition that there’s much to do to wrangle the data, while mobilizing operations to support the effort. Truth is, if even part of the experience is smarter, that’s a big win.

This experience enhancement can take the form of user personalization or combining data to be more meaningful than just a series of data points.

Mid-Maturity: Primed for processes

Perhaps a business is simply able to move a little further, faster. Adding intelligence and automation beyond just product features with intelligent processes makes sense.

For instance, machine learning can automate workflows to perform data collection, reduce the steps involved, and free up employees to do more innovative work. It simply requires confidence in the data powering the process, the levers driving automation, and a deep understanding of the people involved.

Advanced Maturity: Understand the full ecosystem

Companies in advanced stages of maturity can benefit from the full culmination of technology, intelligence, experiences, and operations working as one across their suite of products.

At this point, a business’s focus is on intelligence enablement and innovation across their ecosystem, with analytics and data being fed into products.

prepare

As always, preparation is key

Will there be challenges? We’ve seen a few. And we’ve also overcome more than our share on the road to embracing the movement from features to processes to ecosystem development. But if a company is looking to really, truly build intelligence, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Just some things to think about as you stride confidently into the future.

First, the building blocks.

Do you have the specific pieces in place to make intelligent products work—and work for you? We’ve identified them as Technology, Intelligence, Experiences, and Operations. Many companies are working with an outdated tech stack, for example, or a workforce not quite on the cutting edge of their skill levels. This is a great opportunity to understand and take stock of where you are on this technology journey, and what steps need to be taken to get started.

Second, become pros at process.

Next, let’s talk everyone’s favorite subject, processes. Might not seem like the most exciting, but it’s absolutely critical to be successful with intelligent products. Is your organization ready to make the necessary investment? Ensuring there is broad agreement—from across leadership and beyond—that this is the right road can make or break the effort. Organizational walls will need to be toppled; business group silos will need to be dissolved. Companies that have traditionally operated in a sequential, waterfall fashion will need to embrace an Agile development methodology. One that brings all the parts together to plan, innovate, iterate, evolve, etc. concurrently. It’s an undertaking. Worth it, but there is some effort involved.

Third, data, data, data.

It might be the word du jour these days, but there’s no discounting the impact of data. Thing is, every company is collecting clouds full of data, but are they using it to its fullest advantage? We’ve found that it’s more than simply gathering data to make choices, rather it’s leveraging the full strength of that data to continuously drive iteration and evolution. How is the data influencing and improving user experience? What can be learned about what’s working and what’s not? What perspective can be gained from a core development sense to help you be more targeted, more efficient, more, well, intelligent in the places you push and pull?

Fourth, there’s power in the people.

Every leader worth their salt understands that none of the planning, strategizing, org shuffling in the world matters if their people aren’t on board. And oftentimes that means upskilling and up-leveling abilities—either through additional training or strategic hiring. Consideration needs to be given to how to evolve a workforce to create and support intelligent products. Is it a small pilot group that becomes the experts in the organization, then trains and evangelizes? Is it an outside entity that is brought in to help facilitate? There are options aplenty, but staying put isn’t one of them.

Ready to build intelligent products? We can help.

The future is intelligent. And building intelligent products that reach beyond feature improvements through every stage of maturity will require alignment across the business. One that will help guide downstream operational changes.

Slalom Build has the experience and expertise to help your business at any stage. We help companies identify capability gaps, then share the tools to upskill existing talent. It’s not easy bringing internal organizations together to align on transformative innovation. We know. We do it every single day.

Reach out when you’re ready to take the next step. We’d love to help!

For more information about intelligent products, be sure to register for the AWS re:Invent conference Nov 29th–Dec 3rd, 2021, where we’ll join other AI leaders to talk about intelligent products. Hope to see you there!

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