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From good ideas to great outcomes

Accelerating Product Development Through Improved Process

Visionary - "We need a product feature to help us differentiate and increases sales"

Product Lead - "When do you need it?"

Visionary - "ASAP. When can we have it?"

Product Lead - "What is it?"

Visionary - "I'm not a product guy. You tell me, but it needs to be easy to sell and be really differentiating. BTW, We need it ASAP."

Product Lead - "Okay, we'll need to get tech and marketing involved so let's set up a call for next week."

And so the game begins. The game of call, punt, follow-up call, punt, timeout to level set, finger pointing, punt, call, move on to something else, lagging sales, and eventually "We talked about this six months ago, why don't we have it ready?".

No matter what titles the players have, it's likely that similar conversations are occurring thousands of times each week in conference rooms across the globe.

How do you break out of this non-productive circular exchange?

Before you start, explore your market potential by developing insights about marketplace trends, preferences, barriers, and opportunities. The step is often missed can derail product development before it gets going. Not knowing which direction to head will mean you can easily waste time on heading down the wrong path. It might mean you'll need to backtrack. Lack of marketplace insight leads to waste and often results in products that feel good to the internal constituencies but don't deliver to the marketplace.

It's natural to fall in love with our own ideas and propagate our excitement with others. We feel great when others agree with us and like the direction, but this insular thinking can lead to sub-optimal outcomes.

What if someone else has already done it and failed? What if someone else has it, but it needs the remaining 20% to really accelerate it? What if someone has it and owns the market? What if the market flat out doesn't want it?

Live this initial step, don't think that research is a waste of time because it delays actual product development. Think of it as the first and very necessary step. Take meetings, attend events, talk to clients, industry leaders, etc. If you don't start here with purpose and intensity, your product development team will become a fun group to ideate with, but you'll never deliver anything that really marks a mark. And almost certainly, you won't accelerate your efforts.

Okay, we're living the first step and we may have something here but how do we get it in market ASAP?

Start with the end in mind and never lose focus of the outcome you hope to drive. Don't get stuck on specific features and benefits, focus on the outcome you want to bring to the user. The outcome should be your North Star always leading the direction regardless of the twists and turns the product may take. Always know how to answer, "Why are we doing this?". What is our compelling, differentiated and essential value proposition to the buyer?

It's critical to have a plan but you should expect and embrace iteration. Recognize as you initiate your product development there are likely alternative ways to get the outcome you desire. Roadmaps are commonplace in business, but that's old school. Develop products like your GPS works. When you make a wrong turn, it simply re-routes.

Road closures, accidents, bad weather, construction, don't show up on that map, but your GPS still gets you to where you want to go (at least most often). Think of your plan like GPS and adjust – the destination doesn't change, but you find yourself on paths you never even anticipated. Also, don't be afraid to cut the trip short if you find the outcome you want even before you reach your original end point. Sort of like heading to Starbucks 5 miles away and you stumble on a closer location.

Lastly, don't forget to review and celebrate getting to your destination. Product deployment, enhancements, and improvements always take longer than anyone would like. We always have pressure to deliver, limited resources, things we can't control but we persevere.

Take a page from the Stoics and focus on the now and review daily. Celebrate the daily wins, incremental progress. Highlight the daily challenges and always tie the events of the day to your North Star objective–delivering meaningful outcomes for users.

Maybe, just maybe, these steps can help break your organization from the punt/call cycle and lead to accelerated delivery, products with purpose, and outcomes your business lead so desperately wants. Remember, Tang was originally just a drink for astronauts.