Four GIFs that introduce our new proposition at Made by Many

If you visit you’ll notice that we’ve updated the way we talk about what we do. Whilst we’ve always said that we’re not a digital agency (and often talked about the way our approach to product design drives deep change in our clients’ businesses) we’ve never been as explicit about this before.

In truth, we’ve always found it difficult to explain our proposition. We’ve been clear about what we are not, but not so clear about what we are, what we’re doing and why it’s so potent.

It’s difficult because the whole area of digital product design is still an emerging practice. We’re an emerging practice. The language remains largely ambiguous. But, in respect of our practice today we are now clear that when we say ‘Product Design’ we mean a new, native alloy of business strategy, design, software development and product management.

I say ‘native’ because none of these dimensions of our offer are an ‘add-on’ to an established legacy model. We are not, for example, a management consulting firm trying hard to build a design culture, or a digital marketing company trying to understand how to make things that last longer than a traditional campaign, or for that matter a design consultancy running to adapt to the rhythms of a software-driven world.

By native, I mean that we built this new unified discipline of Product Design intentionally from the ground up. Our goal from day one in 2007 was to bring these strands together in a new, balanced and unified discipline — because that’s what companies trying to adapt to unprecedented change in a world being gobbled up by software need.

Bringing digital inside

Of course, we don’t live in a vacuum. Our practice has evolved in step with the way digital is moving from the periphery to the core. All that stuff we used to bang on about in 2007 has come true. Any product or service enabled by software is — increasingly — understood to be a digital product. People today understand what a software-driven business is, and that every business in the future will be software-driven.

Okay, Digital Transformation is a thing…

In 2017 people don’t talk about digital as a channel, they talk of Digital Transformation. The re-imagination of *absolutely everything* is well underway. It’s actually been underway for about 20 years but now it’s officially a thing. Twenty years is an eye-blink in history — so looking back no-one’s going to say, “Hey, why did it take the best part of twenty years for people to wake the fuck up and understand that digital would actually change everything?”.

It feels kind of astonishing that most companies tinkered away at the edges for all this time with a succession of futile and underwhelming home pages, websites, blogs, microsites, social platforms, mobile sites and apps — but don’t worry. Everyone’s ‘getting digital’ so hard now that Digital Transformation has become super-urgent. In fact, every digital project from now on is about transformation, just to make up for lost time.

And so we led with this thought on the website:

Your product is a silo-busting change bomb delivering highly-targeted transformation

The new website has helped us finally nail the way we talk about the dual effect of Product Design. The first bit is easy — we all recognise digital products and services have wrought/continue to wreak massive change in our lives. Often in unexpected ways and — interestingly — with zero ‘training’, digital products have changed/continue to change the way we love, eat, talk, travel, work, shop, train, learn and play. Our phones are full of examples. It’s clear that ‘Product’ is a highly effective change agent.

But it’s not just the product itself that drives change. Our approach harnesses the way we make products together with client teams and organisations — to change behaviour, to rewire the organisation, and to install new workflows and processes.

A long-time client recently pointed this out to me:

“What’s different about you [Made by Many] is the way you deliver business change through the process of designing and building, and the way you roll the product out.”

So, the process of Product Design drives change, not just the product itself. The product is a tangible object around which people (and teams) can rally and change can be made real, tested and measured. Continuous Product Design, aka Product Management, is a powerful lever and vehicle for change.

This type of change used to be an incidental by-product of the design process. Then, in order to give products a better chance of succeeding, and in order to be able to hand them back to be managed by the companies we were making them for, we had to make the change part more deliberate and intentional. Today, we do this through coaching, building new capabilities and through structured and measurable learning and development programmes that are agreed upfront.

This is product-driven change. It’s lean and it’s fast. It’s about making strategy real and testable as quickly as possible. It’s emergent rather than predictive. It’s small strategies that deliver and evolve continuously, as opposed to ‘big strategy upfront’ that takes forever, or never even gets to market. It’s continuous delivery. It’s releasing something meaningful but a bit smaller every 100 days, instead of going for broke and never shipping. Skip the 100-page PowerPoint decks and concept videos: get real fast. You’ll end up with a product that’s twice as good, in half the time, with transformation baked into both the product and the process.

The GIFs I’ve used in this blog post were created during the recent interminable website redesign project but never used. So, I’ve used them here to help explain our thinking. Big thanks to London animation studio Plastic Horse for helping us to bring them to life.

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