Process is the forgotten P

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At Uni I had a professor given to pithy aphorisms like, “Don’t take drugs, masturbate instead. It’s better for you.” She was wildly unpredictable and a fantastic educator who could see beauty in a framework. To her the structuralism of Lacan, Jakobson, and de Saussere amongst others, was a beautiful tool she used to hack away at cultural texts to extract any meaning she wanted. Balkan politics, gender relations, sado-masochism, it was all up for grabs. Somewhat perversely, she was also enamoured of post-frameworks like post-structuralism and deconstruction as devices for staying relevant with the cool kids and keeping her academic masters happy.

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a middle-aged Professor espouse on the excremental meanings of Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye as a nineteen year old student reads aloud all the dirty bits.

Clearly frameworks can be a lot of fun as well as being useful. They help us shape ideas and massage complex tasks into a simple easy to understand processes. Having a framework gives us humans a veil of certainty through which we can observe a chaotic and scary world. Often though, a framework assumes the weight of an immutable truth, of a known etched in marble by the hand of God herself. And of all the marketing related frameworks, the 5 P’s have assumed an immutable truth.

I reckon the 5 P’s (Product, Price, Promotion, Placement, Positioning) are outdated and need some revision to work in digital business, and most of all what’s missing is process. A good process is receiving a product on time, as promised, and having it work. A good process is calling customer support with a problem and having it listened to by a well trained consultant who knows how to resolve it, or if they can’t can easily escalate it to someone who does. Having a good process is what has driven the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Google to create massively successful businesses.

Innovation in process is arguably one of the most effective ways a business can reduce friction and create value for a customer. Think about what Google did to advertising by removing the middle-man and allowing advertisers create ads, choose a target market, and enter a price all in an automated way. Or Amazon, having seen that the process for adding new infrastructure to their data-centres to support their rapidly growing online business was frustrating for techs and developers, created a platform and an API which has now launched a massively successful hosting business.

It is impossible to critically examine a process without considering a customer, how they use a product, what their needs are, what their pain points are, how they feel, and the problem they are trying to solve. A process can fuck up an apparently immutable framework and replace it with a better framework that works better until a smart person decides to improve it again.

Without a good process a product manager cannot deliver a profitable product that makes customers happy. Without a commitment to process, the 5 P’s of price, promotion, placement, positioning, and product are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past and deliver mediocrity.

It may not be as exciting as a night with Derrida, but a commitment to process can disrupt, engage, and transform how customers experience a product.

What do you think?