There exists a wide gulf between building ordinary products and building products that have a profound impact on the market. Unfortunately, many start-up’s, entrepreneurs and businesses believe that large marketing budgets translate into successful market acceptance of their offerings. That line of thinking is usually flawed and ends with disappointment or worse, failure.
Great products are built by people with a high degree of empathy, a firm belief in research, an appreciation for good design, an eye for detail, a high standard for quality, and a passion to deliver real value to the market.
Building Products For Impact
Good product managers blend a set of principles with intuition, learning and experience. Listed below are a few principles of what it takes to build products for impact. While not comprehensive, they are equally applicable to the world of software as they are to hardware or services.
An idea by itself is not sufficient reason to commercialize a product. Products should never see the drawing board without knowing how they fit with customers. It’s important to consider the ‘must-haves’, ‘nice-to-haves’ and ‘unique differentiators’ of your offering. Don’t go building without checking the foundation first.
Remaining objective throughout the development process helps keep the product pointed in the right direction. Infusing personal preferences or unvalidated ideas along the way allows biases to creep in. This leads to the delivery of a product that’s optimized for the eyes of the product manager and not the intended customer.
STAY GROUNDED IN DATA
Data should always be the foundation of product development. Substituting validated learnings with guess work or gut-feel jeopardizes good product builds. Even for the more experienced product manager, backing intuition with purified data is pertinent to success.
BE THE USER
Never miss an opportunity to test the product yourself. Sans bias, question every detail of the product build, feature deck and contextual application. Being critical could help discover loopholes and opportunities for competitive reaction.
BUILD FOR WIN (What’s important now)
Aim to deliver a product that meets the must-have’s of your target market. The add-on’s and frills can wait for the next product iteration. Remember the competition is just as interested in the same target market. Sometimes, being first matters more. Leverage feedback, learn constantly and apply new information as a more compelling product takes shape.
There are no points for coming in last. In the product world, you’re either in now or still trying on the outside. Maintain deadlines and monitor timelines for tasks. While there are many variables to be dealt with, those within your control set should have the best completion rate. Stay nimble and be prepared to pivot.
SIMPLE ISN’T STUPID
Simplification is the art of good product design. Don’t make users think. Let the product be an extension of what they already know and expect. If they aren’t familiar with the technology, let the product be intuitive.
LEARN FROM COMPETITION AND THEIR PATRONS
It’s great to learn continually from your existing customers, but, don’t take your eyes off the competition and theirs. There is probably a reason some customers haven’t warmed up to your offering. Remember, convincing new customers to the market and your existing tribe is a lot easier than convincing your competitors patrons.
Test iterations, and user experience regularly. There are several tools to help accumulate validated learnings cost-effectively and time-efficiently. Testing ensures the product remains in line with user expectations.
IT’S A TEAM SPORT
Fewer things are accomplished in isolation. A major component of a product manager’s role is to align the various functions responsible for bringing the product to market. Regular interactions, transparency and information exchange helps keep teams on the same page with eyes firmly on the prize.
LASTLY, ACCEPT FAILURE. IT HAPPENS
Be accepting of failure. Sometimes things outside our purview cause significant hiccups along the way. What’s important is what you learn from it. Stay positive, stay hungry.