"Are we building Products or are we building Solutions?"
A question that I get asked quite often. And in turn, I borrow my answer from the great author Shakespeare.
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
At Wipro, our aim of Productization is to build greater repeatability, increase predictability, increase maintainability and enable faster go-to-market for our customers. And as long as the purpose gets solved, I don't worry about the name that is used to define the output.
I've had the good opportunity of interacting with Venture Capitalists in the Silicon Valley. While evaluating startups, there are 3 questions they generally ask:
1. What is the problem you're addressing?
2. What is the Solution you're providing and how is it different?
3. How soon can we make some money?
Please note here that they don't ask "What is the ‘product' that you are building?"
Some of my acquaintances in the industry do try to argue based on technicalities of both these terms. It leads to a great coffee-table discussion. Unfortunately, that is all that it can be.
While I don't worry about the question, I do spend time addressing the question. A Services company and its staff are traditionally comfortable providing "solutions" to its customers. So when we talk about building products, it is first encountered with some skepticism. People also question if this is in the DNA of the organization. I see this more as a matter of change management than just a debate on terminologies. And the change has to be addressed.
I address it by building confidence in the person that this is indeed not something that is new to the company. Wipro has traditionally been building products/solutions. Its rich history of over six decades has seen it build products from vegetable oil to consumer durables to computers to software. Once this idea is reinforced in the minds of the people raising the question, they feel at peace and are more open to dialog and change.
Over time, I've observed that the number and frequency of these questions have decreased significantly. This is a testimony to the fact that change is settling it and that the initiative is finding acceptance throughout the organization. The concept of Productization has been internalized within Wipro.
Coming back to the question: "Are we building Products or are we building Solutions?" Go on, choose the answer you like the best.