What Does It Take?
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. 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 and a passion to deliver exceptional value to the market.
Building Better Products That Deliver
Listed below are some key principles that help build products for impact. They are equally applicable to the world of software as they are to hardware and services.
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.
This being said, products should never see the drawing board without knowing how they fit with customers. Good products are built around customers and ground work pays dividend almost immediately.
Remaining objective throughout the development process helps keep the product pointed in the right direction. Infusing personal preferences, unsupported ideas or unsubstantiated frills allows distractions to creep into the development process. This leads to the delivery of a product that’s optimized for the eyes of the product team or company and not the intended customer.
BUILD FOR WIN (What’s Important Now)
It’s important to consider a product in terms of ‘must-haves’, ‘nice-to-haves’ and ‘unique differentiators’. Aim to deliver a product that’s optimized for the market as it stands / is expected. The add-on’s and frills can wait for the next iteration.
Never miss an opportunity to test the product yourself. Question every detail, feature and contextual application. Being critical could help discover cracks and opportunities for improvement.
Testing ensures the product remains in line with user expectations. Leverage feedback, learn constantly and apply new information as a more compelling product takes shape.
Sometimes, being first matters more. 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 should have the best completion rates.
SIMPLE ISN’T STUPID
Simplification is the art of good product design in my opinion. Never make users think too much. Let the product be an extension of what they already know and expect.
Discoverability and understandability are some of the pillars of good design. If they aren’t familiar with the technology, make the product intuitive or at least ensure guidance is easily accessible.
LEARN FROM COMPETITION AND THEIR CUSTOMERS
There is a good reason some customers haven’t warmed up to your offering. Remember, convincing new customers to the market or your existing base is a lot easier than convincing your competitors patrons. Learn what they do better or what makes their product more enticing to those who don’t see the same value in yours.
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 PROBLEMS AND 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 them, pivot when necessary or press forward. At the end of the day, stay positive, stay hungry.