In daily business I often come along a blurred usage of the word project. Everything we work on is declared to be a project. Actually that’s wrong. We work on products rather than on projects. The act of working itself may be part of a project, but the result, the artifact, the outcome is always a product.

A project always has to have a specific goal and often a limited timescope and/or budget. Products don’t. However products are developed and changed from time to time to improve or update them.

We work on products, while we work in projects.

Eventually it does not matter if your company develops products for external customers or internal usage. It’s absolutely the same.

Every piece of software I ever wrote, I wrote on products. There was always a new artifact (let’s call it a new version). Larger changes were implemented in projects eventually only grouping functionality with high technical connections. The result is always a new version, a new release of the product. Rarely a software stays the same after a project is finished. It’s being changed, extended, adapted to whatever new use cases come into mind of the stakeholders. Which is absolutely fine.

Consequence considerations

However being clear about working on products rather than on projects requires some change in thinking and additional considerations. It implies a lot of thoughts on quality and leads away the scope of development from a pure onetime implementation of some code never to be altered again (and I heared that a lot). Eventually you come out with considering the whole lifecycle of a product and the total cost of ownership.

In the next step this thought leads away from the classical fixed-price, pay-once-and-get-it-all-forever thinking in software development to understanding it more as a service that is billed from time to time. Seeing it the latter way means really developing a product while keeping in mind a lot of quality aspects such as maintainence, usability, technical upgrades and so on.

I don’t know, if this term is just used this blurred in german as I face it from day to day, but somehow I wanted to point that difference out.