Value Operators

I come from the days of SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle). Slowly, the world moved into PLC (Product Lifecycle) in the past decade and a half with the boom of digital products. This is when designers became digital product designers or UI/UX designers. We also saw a rise in product managers (confusing term for functional SMEs) and engineering managers (who are both people and functional managers).

Key activities were defined for the PLC, but every discipline still had its own process (e.g. design process, engineering sprints) that had no integration with the larger PLC. We don't have a shared language that talks about the ultimate goal we are achieving in the product building process.

To solve this problem for myself, I developed a shared language that helped discuss the nuances, give better feedback, and ask better questions. I shared it with my students as well, and it really helped us. If one person like me could do this, I assumed large product organizations would do it even better. And of course, they do in their own ways.

After contributing to 200+ products and working with 30/50 fortune 50 companies, I am now gearing up the courage to say it out loud: we could do better with PLC. We have an opportunity to define a shared language in our product world.

Here is a proposal.

All product makers are value operators. The term "value operator" unites all of us and makes the lines between us blurry because we have the same purpose: to help the customer with value.
Exchanging value with the customer is not easy and it happens in 5 phases:
Value Thinking
Value Creation
Value Delivery
Value Capture
Value Support (internal and external)

Each phase has a specific objective, multiple activities, variety of outputs, and a pointed outcome. For example, in Value Thinking, as the name implies, it is all about thinking deeply. The typical activities in this phase include foundational research, value hypothesis, competitive analysis, ideal value (which usually becomes a more realistic goal in later stages), etc. The output of this phase is your point of view of the value, a one-pager or feature press release, and FAQs. Typically, PMs and UXers collaborate and own this phase. The simple schematic below is representative of most product organizations. I deliberately missed Value Capture here as usually the product designers are not a big part of financials/P&L and more.

Use this language and see if it makes sense within your product organization. Let me know the changes this shared language brings.

I have reaped exponential ROI in my product career by using this shared language. It brought the data folks, PMs, Engg and designers closer.

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