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Transforming Product Portfolio Management: How We Started Our Own Agile Revolution

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How do you persuade a 50-year-old company with a long tradition of waterfall development, a conservative business culture, and a customer base with unique and often conflicting set of needs to launch an initiative to transform their organization and adopt a more experimental, evidence-based approach to product development?

Simple—by having one of its key customers compare the company to an 18th-century government organization whose refusal to change contributed to the start of the French Revolution.

“We didn’t want to be a dinosaur —too slow to respond to customer needs, and producing dated, inflexible solutions that missed market needs.” Rolf Purzer, CEO, ATPCO

In 2017, following the naming of new CEO Rolf Purzer, ATPCO’s leadership recognized that one of the biggest challenges facing the organization was obsolescence, both the threat of new companies emerging that could replace what ATPCO does, and a perception among its travel industry customers that ATPCO was a dinosaur—too slow to respond to customer needs and producing dated, inflexible solutions that missed market needs. In fact, one customer compared the structure of an industry meeting sponsored by ATPCO with dealing with parliaments in 18th-century France. And of course, French parliamentarians were not known for their agility.

ATPCO works with more than 450 airlines worldwide, and it supplies more than 99 percent of the industry’s intermediated fare data to all the major airfare pricing engines. It is the leading collector and distributor of fare and fare-related data for the airline and travel industry.

The vision for success at ATPCO was to improve time to market, increase customer and product satisfaction, and make better investments to exceed their value targets.

Key Takeaways

This article co-author by Gerry Crossan and Scott Richards, Directors at ATPCO and Barry O’Reilly, Business Advisor, Entrepreneur and Author details the transformation from project to product-centric teams, a more iterative and adaptive approach to portfolio management and innovation. This article contains our top insights on;

  • Diagnosing product development blockers impacting productivity and morale
  • Institute outcome-based measures of success for the entire business portfolio including strategic initiatives and individual products
  • Shifting to 12 month rolling wave portfolio planning and funding
  • How to launch pilot initiative to proof out new ways of working and measure products development
  • Moving from project based work to 16 cross-functional product teams with 9 months
  • 290 percent increase in product innovation and feature releases year on year