The Marketing Research Association reports that of all the developed products, only 40% make it to market. Even more shocking is that 40% of those that do make it don’t generate any revenue at all. Careful planning increases the chances that your product will not only make it to market but profit.
First, choose a product development framework to organize your efforts. Next, you will need a practical means of implementing the framework you’ve chosen. This involves training and your team as much as the resources you have at hand. Successful product development depends on using the right technology.
Which concepts does modern product development use?
Over time, product development teams found methods that let them repeat their successes faster and with greater consistency. These methods evolved into concepts like flat design, style tiles, and live style guides. By understanding these concepts, you can find more effective ways to keep your team’s work organized and achieve faster results.
Since most agile methodologies use heavily visual breakdowns of the project management steps, companies have identified several ways to organize these graphics. Over time, users recognized that simple, brightly colored graphics are the easiest way to convey ideas. This concept was termed flat design. Flat design, as its name would imply, relies on two-dimensional graphics and simplistic design to quickly communicate ideas. For example, the logos and images featured in Google’s 2013 redesign use this principle.
Another benefit of flat design is that its images appropriately scale to your screen size and load quickly. This stands in sharp contrast to detailed, three-dimensional graphics that require additional rendering. Buttons made with flat design contribute to the overall user experience, being that they’re easy to locate and use.
Technology has also evolved to make it simpler to duplicate design elements. For instance, grouping design elements together in “style tiles” allows your team to keep them together for future projects. These elements could be colors, fonts, and text sizes, and other features. These enable design teams to quickly conceptualize ideas and present them to the rest of the project’s stakeholders.
Live style guides
Another way to keep design elements together is to use a live style guide. A live style guide is a webpage that keeps track of your style elements, letting everybody see what is currently there and what is missing. Matching colors to the site’s current palette and maintaining consistent fonts is faster with a reliable log of what the site uses. Later, these elements can be logged and applied to other apps or web pages to keep the brand’s style consistent.
Expanding the product development mindset
Much like how designers generalized elements that worked to create a widespread practice, your team can take the methods from its product development and apply them to other areas of your business. The concepts of product development don’t have to stay within your development team. Use the essence of your chosen product development framework to optimize other processes in your business.
1. Standardized processes
For example, consider how agile methodologies involve standardized processes. Unifying the procedures in your marketing department can help the team avoid mistakes and quickly onboard new staff. Similarly, your customer service team can learn how to evaluate customer feedback and communicate potential solutions to different parts of the company.
2. Open communication
Another beneficial concept from product development is open communication. Management should welcome and encourage feedback from their teams by opening frequent discussions. Often, product development methodologies fail because even though your team is following the steps, they neglect the method’s core values. If you decide to use lean or agile thinking within your company, make sure that you fully commit to reap the rewards.
3. Connected teams
Another tip to get more out of your lean and agile methodology is to keep designers within your team. While freelancers are a frequently used option, ultimately, you can save more time with a staff designer. This reduces training and knowledge transfers that would come with each new iteration of your project. What seems more cost-effective in the short term may have more significant financial impacts in the long run.
4. Good reasoning skills
Another way you can help your business embrace these methodologies is to use a scientific mindset. A scientific approach can encourage your team to think critically about their solutions and the best way to enact them. Analytical perspectives separate teams from their personal attachment to an idea. This often stems from habit instead of function. Overall, inquisitive thinking helps teams approach problems with a creative, curious mindset.
5. Company culture
Think about what’s most important in the culture of your team. Does it foster trust? Does it bring out the courage in your team members? Do decisions come from a humble place that welcomes change in learning? If you’re unsure about any of these answers, consider current obstacles that prevent you from reaching your goals. Sometimes, what stands in the way has to do with your team’s overall mindset. Get together and identify what changes can help your team. Then, don’t stop there. Act and make the change.
How do you overcome challenges in product development?
Over time, your team will eventually encounter hang-ups. This will happen with any project, and preparing yourself from the beginning can help you learn the skills to tackle the problem and succeed after the fact.
Proper planning and documentation are your most valuable assets. Involve team members who value education and learning to steer clear of significant issues. Even in the worst cases, documentation and analysis turn a challenge into a learning opportunity. Here are several situations you can avoid while creating your product.
Good ideas awaken the drive to pursue them. However, trying to pursue too many good ideas creates conflict around which priorities should take precedence. While these ideas may be of similar value, group them by compatibility so your efforts aren’t spread too thin. For example, if you have a list of features you want, break the list down into groups of the most closely related ideas so you can accomplish more with less work.
Remember that while your team thinks that something may be an excellent plan, your market ultimately will ultimately decide. The data you collect on your potential customers will tell you what does and doesn’t work. Good market research can help you narrow down your ideas to the most practical, then guide you to the most effective ways to channel your efforts.
Getting beat to the market
Speed is not the end goal of product design, but that doesn’t negate its importance. Even the best ideas have failed just because someone else released a solution quicker. This setback doesn’t mean that their product is inherently better or that your idea wouldn’t have worked, but it does mean that there’s room to rework your strategy.
If you find yourself beaten to market by a competitor, first, acknowledge yourself for taking time to plan your next steps. It takes strength to be flexible. Make sure you document your current processes and the next steps you take. This will help you replicate them faster and shave time off of reworks. Do your research again and learn from your competitor’s successes and failures. The faster that you learn and apply your knowledge, the faster your products will flourish.
Some teams may jump into a market knowing that there’s a solution much like theirs. Think of Uber and Lyft, for example. What if your competitor already has the product and you want to take advantage of the demand?
Naturally, this seems like a good setup as you can see that there are plenty of customers available. However, this approach sets you up for fierce competition with someone who already holds on the market. While you may find limited success with this, especially if you have a unique selling point, this is not one of the most effective strategies and takes great effort to pull off.
You can use your competitor’s experiences to draw your own path. Start by redoing the initial market research yourself. What problem is this product trying to solve? Do the customers still have unresolved pain points? Are there other ways that your team could address the issue with a different solution? Going back to square one can give you a new, unique perspective and tap into a market that you already know craves change.
Lack of funding
Even the best ideas are still subject to your company’s budget. Ultimately, how you use your resources is what determines the fate of your product. You may have a clear picture of what you want and how each feature works together, but you have to articulate each piece’s importance to every part of your team. When the value of your project isn’t clear, the overall product suffers.
To avoid the kind of issues that stem from a tight budget, make sure that you justify each funding request. Remember that you have to understand the purpose yourself and explain it to people who don’t have the same hands-on knowledge. If you can clearly articulate why each milestone needs funding, you can then show them how it increases revenue in the long term.
Lack of direction
Another issue that may cause snags in your development is not understanding the independent purpose of each of the project’s requirements. Is there a reason you think that your customers would prefer one feature over another? Do you have statistics or info to back it up? Executing tasks for the sake of completing tasks may give you the illusion of progress but ultimately will not bring you any closer to your goal. If you find your team taking on bits of your project without understanding why ensure that your research provides the details you need to understand the project’s purpose.
On a related note, remember that common knowledge is not always the best approach when developing a product. Even though your team may feel that your users will want a given feature or have a particular problem, remember to use a scientific approach and check. This extra step will confirm that you were on the right path or align with your market before misusing resources.
What do you do when you have great ideas, can justify the budget, but find yourself adding more and more to the final design? The original project may have vastly different funding when looking at the budget numbers than what you currently have. Is it worth it? Some features may not create enough value to justify the work put into them. Reel in your features list and focus on what your customers need. When in doubt, go back to your research. It’s never too late to learn more.
Imagine this, you’re right upon your release date, and your team finds a major issue in your product. How could this have happened? In an environment where your team does not feel encouraged to speak up or maybe even feel free to announce that there is an issue, errors could go unnoticed until it’s too late. To avoid this, test your product frequently and remember to be calm, open, and honest when someone lets you know that something is going on. Remember that this small gesture can save you intense frustrations later on.
Lack of internal training
If everything seems excellent about your app and your research shows that your users like it, the issue is likely not with your development team. Check-in with your marketing and sales departments to ensure that they understand the product, its overall value, the market that will be using it, and why they can benefit from your software. It’s never a bad idea to have your team demo the app to the rest of the company, as they have an equal part in determining your product success.
Short-staffed teams can call in a consultant to organize training and align their efforts. Two options include:
- Fractional CMOs
- Fractional COOs
A fractional CMO has experience working with sales and marketing teams and showing them the best ways to communicate the value of a product. They can organize demos and knowledge transfers with your engineers and gauge their overall understanding. The more experience your fractional CMO has in your industry, the more relevant their input will be.
A fractional COO looks at the processes your company uses and helps organize your team. Look for someone that has worked on projects like yours in the same. Before selecting someone to work with, take time to check their references and evaluate the outcome of their efforts.
Every product design process has its challenges. Understanding what some of these may be and what tools are available to address them will help you organize the right approach. Assembling a team of experts and planning ahead prevent the most severe challenges to your product’s success. So, plan wisely, think ahead, and keep up on new techniques. For more information about different approaches and resources in product development, read through more thoughts from a business consultant.