What Do Golf and Product Development Have in Common?

I love golf. So much so that my wife often questions my sanity. It’s my favorite sport to play and watch, but the latter only when I’m already sleepy and not playing golf. Why do I bring this up in a Guidewire blog? Golf holds a lot of similarities to building product, any kind of product, whether it’s a software product or an insurance offering. 

There are different aspects to both that hold key similarities. For simplicity, let’s break down building product into three buckets:

  1. Vision;
  2. Content; and
  3. Going to market. 

Now let’s put that in the context of playing a single hole of golf:

  • Teeing off/Vision:  Before ever reaching for a club or building a requirement, one must assess the environment: what is the weather/market condition like, what are the challenges we’ll be facing on this hole or in this market, what tools do we have at our disposal, et al. What is the end goal? Is this a birdie hole or par hole? Is this a standalone product opportunity or should it be an add-on to an existing product?
  • Tee-to-Green/Content: Building the requirements and product, and ensuring the quality of the release (both the swing release and product release), are the meat of building product or playing the golf hole. You’re going to run into bumps with any product, just like you might slice your drive or leave an easy wedge 40 feet short of the hole. In this phase, it’s all about how you scramble to recover and make good decisions to get out of the problems that will always arise, as opposed to compounding unforeseen problems with more bad decisions. 
  • Putting/Go-to-Market: The saying “drive for show and putt for dough” couldn’t be more true. Whether you have a great product/vision, or end up 10 ft. from the hole for birdie, you have to execute here to be successful. If you three-putt or fail in executing the sales, marketing and/or implementation of what you’ve done in the prior stages, it’s all for naught.  

All of the above require different disciplines in an organization and it’s the practice and the cohesiveness of those disciplines that drives success. Just like in golf – you have to be good at game management, getting to the green with a variety of shots, and finally putting to break par.