I find productization to be a fascinating term. It’s one of those so bad it’s good scenarios; So forced, so contrived, and so stinking of business jargon is the term Productization that it is perfectly appropriate for what it stands for. Productization is commonly described as the changing and tweaking of something, either tangible or intangible, to prepare it for being a commercial product. It’s the process of taking an idea, a concept, a method and moulding it into a packaged product. So the term is perfect, because it is in itself an example of productization in an abstract way.
While you could use productization to signify the preparatory, pre-production phase of regular physical products, I think it makes the most sense in the commercialisation of services, and more specifically, in packaging and making finite (finitization?) a normally open-ended service, such as design. I have been pondering this subject in relation to my recent thoughts on creating a service product offering from Primordial Soop for the analysis of websites and their optimisation. To really narrow down what this new product should be and should do, I set out to scribble down why productizing such a service is a good idea, for us, for clients, and in what ways it will make our lives better or easier. I was thinking about this specific example, but these ideas should hold true for any similar productization initiative.
Advantages of productization for clients
Fixed cost, fixed expectations
The costing of websites, or any other design service for that matter, is always a complex issue with clients, because the results seem intangible. The client doesn’t get to hold a website in their hands at the end, so there is no simple gauging of the value they received. Add to this the fact that design services are often indefinite in time and costs, and there is little doubt as to why web sites and web designers scare clients a little. A well-structured service product with a fixed cost and fixed expectations of time-frame and what is deliverable, can put many a client’s misgivings at ease, while also giving them access to the expertise they require.
When most clients walk into a web designer’s office, they have no idea what they will end up with. Part of the reason is that they don’t really know what they want, and part of it is that much can change and morph during the design and development process. This instability doesn’t sit well with clients who think of a website as an object; It isn’t but you can’t educate everyone all the time. A service product can get rid of that nebulous nature of the service. Productization means you must promise and deliver a specific end result, a 20-page analysis, an example HTML page, or something similar that is tangible and the client can consider a valuable investment.
Lower cost of entry
Good websites are increasingly complex systems. Clients can often think of them as a simple bunch of documents like the word-processor documents or presentation slides they throw together on a daily basis, but websites, and specifically dynamic editable websites, are a living, breathing thing that is constantly at work and interacting with visitors and administrators while doing a hundred things in the background. That takes a significant effort to setup and design, and it costs a significant amount of money, if the designers know what they are doing. Such all-encompassing website systems might be beyond the means or interest of many clients, but they still need their website to work and fulfill its function. A fixed-cost service product can be a more economical way for them to access a higher level of expertise than might be in their regular web design budget.
Adding to existing investments
Most web design projects and the setting up of editable systems involves a fresh start. There will be the mandatory importing of old data and content to maintain a continuity if an older site existed, but it’s rarely possible to just add on top of what is already there. Increasingly, most clients will also have some form of existing online presence, and in some cases, these online presences came at a high cost and was recent enough in the client’s memory to seem like something that should be paying dividends for longer. Regardless of the less than educated choices that might have led to the existing sub-optimal website the client might have, they want to make the best of their existing investment and a web optimisation service helps them add to their existing infrastructure rather than throwing the baby out with the bath-water. This can be a big selling point.
Advantages of productization for service providers
Fixed earnings, fixed deliverables
From our perspective, services have a tendency of continuing indefinitely. Even when deliverables and project scopes are strictly laid out in quotations and proposals, there is always the possibility of clients adding another extra requirement to the project, along with stretching the time we spend on it, without an increase in compensation. These misunderstandings of how things work can be communicated and sorted out, but it often comes with its fair share of argument and with one of the parties feeling cheated out of either their time or their money. Offering a service product simplifies our lives and lets us concentrate on the work instead of the logistical machinations, because the earning is now a guaranteed figure, and what needs to be provided for the price is finite and fixed. Such clearly defined parameters are good for both our finances and our sanity.
Attract a broader clientèle
When you’ve decided to be a service provider of a certain quality, that decision comes with its costs. The cost to the client is monetary, and the cost to us is in narrowing down our potential client-base. This narrowing down is a desirable result in most cases, but that’s not to say it doesn’t remove us from consideration for some clients who would be interesting to work with, or offer challenging projects to us if they could afford it. A productized service gives the client a low cost alternative to using our full design service, but it also grants us the ability to work with a broader range of clients, without having to forego our commercial interests. This exposure can also lead to more clients understanding what you offer and considering you for larger projects when they need it.
Solve real problems
Most services at their core are about solving a problem of some sort. As the expertise grows, the size of the problem and requirement grows more complex, hence the need for design and invention at broader levels. But often all that is needed is to repair and restructure what is already there, and such help becomes beyond your means when design services are unending and must be worth your time. A service product, on the other hand, reduces your investment of time to the finite, allowing you the luxury of solving down-to-earth problems again. This luxury not only helps you help real clients with common problems, it also re-introduces you to the core importance of your service and the minor details of it which often get forgotten or glossed over with time and with larger fish to fry. Many of us get into a service oriented industry because we are geeks at heart and enjoy some of the technical nitty-gritty that goes into it. A productized service allows you to indulge in the technical while also limiting your involvement to manageable chunks of effort.
That, in a large nutshell, is a list of my thoughts on why this productization business is a good idea. I think these advantages, along with seeing the result of such a service from both sides of the fence will help us immensely in better designing the service we intend to provide. It will help make what is delivered, what we need to put into it, and not put into it, clearer and suitable to both the client’s requirements and ours. There is always a long process involved in trying to take a service from open-ended game to packaged commercial product, but this was certainly a good place to start.