Why Soft Skills Are More Important to Innovation than Technical Competency


Many companies face the challenge of successfully developing new software products that drive their core business, leverage “big data,” and capture new revenue streams. As business imperatives, these products are measured by their ability to:

  • Increase market share
  • Build customer loyalty
  • Disrupt, or stave off, competitors
  • Increase user base
  • Drive profitable revenue

Ultimately, product development success is essential for business success, yet, for many companies, product development involves a lot of money, guesswork, and blind trust.

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In the summer of 2014, 3Pillar Global commissioned a research study to better understand what drives success, failure, and challenge for businesses doing software product development. Simply, we wanted to collect data with the intent of leveraging the study’s insights to fuel not just 3Pillar thought leadership in the market, but also inform our business.

We had the big idea that we might be able to create some sort of index as a result of the study to determine a benchmark for what successful businesses do differently than the unsuccessful – getting ahead of ourselves a bit, we brainstormed Product Mindset Index, Product Management Index, and many cool names with “index” in them.

The reality was, we had no idea where the study and the resulting data would actually lead us, so we had to wait for the research to be completed. No data, no insights (and no index).

In late Q4 of 2014, we received the study’s results and associated findings. Third party researchers from the University of Maryland and Rockbridge Associates research confirmed many things we implicitly knew but had trouble articulating. Their data analysis and statistical correlation were used to create a model which defines what makes for successful product.

We call this model PDSI, the Product Development Success Index.

PDSI defines identified six (6) critical indicators of product development success:

  1. Culture
  2. Feedback
  3. Communication
  4. Collaboration
  5. Staffing
  6. Time/Budget Focus

Across the hundreds of mid-market and enterprise companies involved the study that the average “score” of these companies surveyed was a “C,” indicating that most companies do not yet excel at product development innovation.

At 3Pillar we are committed to helping companies innovate and achieve ultimate success in their product development efforts. If you’re interested in learning more, check out ProductDevelopmentSuccess.com where we have published the initial findings and will continually provide updates as we complete additional research and analysis.

About the study:

In collaboration with the Robert H. Smith School of Business Center for Excellence in Services at the University of Maryland and Rockbridge Associates, 3Pillar Global commissioned a comprehensive study of product development success drivers to benchmark product development and innovation success. The study was intended to explore what drives success, failure, and challenge for businesses doing software product development. The exploration resulted in not just powerful insights, but the creation of a diagnostic index that benchmarks product development and innovation success.

The research gathered information on a range of correlates and outcomes related to software product development and innovation success, including:

  • Industry trends
  • Corporate demographics
  • Product development function traits
  • Adherence to methodologies
  • Macro factors such as competition

Rockbridge Associates, Inc., a research firm specializing in technology and services, participated in the study as a primary research provider.

The target population for the study consisted of a statistically relevant number of software product development professionals in mid-sized and large corporations across a wide set of industries including: business services, education, financial services, healthcare, hospitality, information services, media and entertainment, technology, and telecommunications.

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