Product Manager at CBRE - Digital & Technology, India
Failures are expensive! How to avoid them in product development
03 June, 2020
Would it not be amazing
if one could guarantee the success of a product (whatever the
definition of success of that product is)? Or if there were 'sacred rules', following which, could assure desired outcome?
Well, unfortunately, there's no such 'potion'
available, but building a product with a specific mindset can greatly
increase one's chances of a successful product. I am listing down some
of them which has helped me build successful products over the years.
However, let me remind you that they may not necessarily be everything
that you need to build a successful product and I am sure, there are
numerous other factors.
- Focus on isolating the 'actual problem' from the clutter: Henry Ford,
the father of the American car industry, and a pioneer entrepreneur of
his time, had an uncanny way of meeting his customers' needs. He
believed that customers didn't possess the ability to express their
unmet needs for innovative products, and once said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Since
not all of us are Henry Fords of our time, we have to reach out to our
customers to identify a gap or a problem as closely as possible and, to
reach out to as many as possible. The larger the sample size, the
greater are the chances of formulating a correct hypothesis. Once the
data is in place, a vision of the proposed solution should guide all
- Start by fulfilling bare minimum requirements of your consumers:
Gone are the days when companies and business houses would happily
invest millions of dollars and wait for months before a half baked
product was presented to them. In a nearly 'perfect competition'
market where there's umpteen number of competitors and a solution
already available for all problems, it becomes prudent that a Product
Manager treads carefully in investing as little time and money as
possible in validating a prospective solution to a problem. It doesn't
necessarily mean building a part of the solution but a product which is
'just' able to fulfill the requirements or needs, which we generally
refer to as 'Minimum Viable Product' (MVP). Having said so,
should actual data speak otherwise, the Product Manager should also be
courageous enough to pivot or 'pull the plug'.
- Keep the feedback loop as short and frequent as possible: As
I had written in my previous article, the only way to validate whether
the Product Manager is building the right product is to share the
product with the target audience and seek their responses. Eric Ries, in his book "The Lean Startup" explains in detail how he built a product - the IMVU app,
based on his business logic and instinct, rather than what his
customers 'actually' wanted, and how it eventually garnered dismal
results. The best approach is to build an increment of the product,
validate it's value with customers, change direction as per customer's
feedback, and repeat. One of the best way to reduce the risk of
rejection by customers is to share the product with them as early and
quickly as possible.
- Learn from data: A good
Product Manager should always track data of customers responses on
features, or increments of the product. Customer data is a treasure
trove of information and correct analysis and interpretation can help point out an underlying issue, preferences or even the future of the product by analyzing a trend.
- Be thorough with your 'Product Differentiation': Although Edward Chamberlin's concept of product differentiation
is not new, it has never made more sense than today's market because of
the availability of multiple solutions to a given problem or need. What
a Product Manager should be careful about is to find the
differentiating factor that separates her product from all the other
available in the market. Building a product that gives a competitive advantage over competitors is the key here.
- Adopt Agile Development Methodology:
We are living in a business environment where the market dynamics are
changing so fast that many businesses become obsolete before they
realize this. Following a rigid approach to product development under so
much uncertainty is a short-cut to failure, and therefore, we have to
be Agile enough to change direction and approach as quickly as possible - 'Adaptability' and 'Customer Centricity' have to be at the very core of building any a product today. The 2015 Standish Group Chaos Report summarized
data from the outcomes of more than 10,000 software projects between
2011 and 2015 and segmented them by the Agile process and Waterfall
method. The results for all projects showed that Agile projects have
almost four times the success rate as waterfall projects, and waterfall
projects have three times the failure rate as agile projects.
- Build a Product which is easy to use: Even
if a product has the best features in the world, no user would want to
use it for long if the product isn't intuitive enough to use. Elon Musk once very aptly said "Any product that needs a manual to work is broken." Try
to gather feedback - early and frequently, from your consumers on their
experience of using the product so that you can make improve the user
experience early during the development.
- Dedicate yourself completely: It
may sound cheesy but magic happens when something is built with
unflinching conviction, dedication and perseverance. Noticing the minute
insignificant details, observing consumer reactions, and feedback - all
play a crucial role in the success of a product. It takes days and
months of continued effort and dedication to build a product that your
customers love. As Tom Ford once said "When you are having fun, and
creating something you love, it shows in the product. So, when a woman
is sifting through a rack of clothes, somehow that piece of clothing
that you had so much fun designing speaks to her; she responds to it and
buys it. I believe you can actually transfer that energy to material
things as you’re creating them."
What's your formula of building a successful product? Do you agree with the points listed above? Do share your thoughts.
Photo Credit: https://www.techwell.com/sites/default/files/stories/images/cropped_teasers/Beth%20Romanik/2018/Success-Failure-Sign.jpg
#Product #Product Development #Product Differentiation #Iteration #Scrum #Agile Product Development