How to Avoid Common Digital Product Development Mistakes
So you have this great idea for a new digital product. You discuss it with your friends. You find that most of them like it. Besides, you’re super convincing when explaining your vision of success. Many people also admire your smart and entrepreneurial approach. Looks like your digital product development will go smoothly from the startup phase right the way through to becoming a fully-fledged business.
All of this is encouraging. You start building your product with your friends, then you find some early adopters and turn them into your first clients. It’s great. You gain the right velocity and you have a convincing can-do attitude. After some time you manage to get the first investors onboard. Things should be easy from now on. You launch your quickly-prepared business plan and start to split the funds between product development and business activities. Your small team releases the first version of the product with the core features; you get more staff members onboard, and everyone is very engaged and committed to your project. You congratulate yourself on getting your product to market faster than the competition.
When your product development process doesn't go to plan
But then at some point things start to get complicated. You begin noticing the first signs of churn and complaints from your customers. It seems that they’ve changed their mind and are now looking for different features. Your product only partially meets their expectations. Shortly afterwards the team velocity drops too, and first doubts are visible.
You are fully aware of all the statistics and reports, and you know that around 85% of new products on the market fail. But hey, this doesn’t relate to you right? It’s about all the other ideas that are simply not good enough. You have a good product definition and a clear strategy.
Well, a great concept and boundless enthusiasm is unfortunately just the beginning. A good idea is like a good piece of rock, and a well working business is like fine sculpture. In order to create a perfect sculpture out of this fine piece of rock you need proper, effective tools in place, and knowledge of how to use them. So here comes the question: What increases the likelihood of your digital product failing, even if the company vision behind it is brilliant ? And how can you avoid these common digital product development mistakes? The best was is to consult with product delivery managers, who have experience with having delivered many products over the years.
Setting yourself up for product success
When developing digital products, product managers almost always operate on a limited budget and within a set time frame. So your route to success looks pretty much like a race which you need to complete before you run out of either one of these important resources. What makes the race even more difficult? In many cases it’s the fact that you will have to change assumptions at least several times before you figure out the perfect shape of your product. Yes, It’s actually very normal to adjust or entirely change the assumptions and scope of your features, based on user feedback and expectations, and your possibilities.
Below are just a few of the common product development mistakes that companies should avoid when developing digital products.
1. Assuming you’ve found a product-market fit before it's actually happened.
Companies focus primarily on creating value - without enough regard to whether customers have an urgent need for it or will recognize this value. Without such information, you're operating on pure wishful thinking. Looking for shortcuts, a product owner is often ready to believe that their end product fully takes into account user needs and problems, and that it’s ready to scale. Big mistake. Product development in its early life stage means constant discovery, research and verification of assumptions. We need to pivot based on the market feedback all the time. What are the tools we use at 10Clouds to avoid problems in this area?
- Paper and digital prototyping
- Business or Lean Model Canvas
- Fake doors
- Landing page for interest measurement
- MVP workshops
- Design Sprint
- Innovation vortex
The main advantages of proceeding with proper discovery and market validation is that we now have ample insight into how customers evaluate new products. Creating successful products is not possible without understanding the problems we want to solve. When the development team understands the product vision deeply, they can effectively work on solving the client's problems. Remember that the Initial verification of the client's needs and problems is the first step to involving clients or users in product development.
2. Not adopting data driven decisions and realistic goals
Of all received wisdoms “what gets measured, gets managed” must be one of the most widely accepted. Research shows that over 80% of companies in their early stages have problems calculating and understanding their product metrics effectively. Well monitored metrics mirror our decisions. It’s great if a product owner has “a gut feeling” about decisions to be made, but let’s measure their impact precisely first; then assess how good they actually are. As a company, you need all the data you can possibly gather on customer satisfaction, monthly increase in user numbers, churn, returning customers, MRR/ARR, CAC. Your decisions always reflect in one or more numbers that can prove whether the direction you are heading is good, or whether maybe something should be changed.
What's more, company founders tend to leave setting goals and objectives for later stages of the product and business development. That’s a huge mistake too. It’s important to track progress towards clearly defined goals from the very beginning. Remember that these goals need to be properly adjusted to the stage that your business is at. If you are just after the ‘go live’ stage with your product, it’s best not to set half-yearly or quarterly objectives. At this stage it’s best to monitor changes on a weekly or maximum monthly basis.
3. Insufficient experience with agile methods in product development.
Agile frameworks are relatively easy to implement and understand, but in order to use their full potential you need to have practical experience. At 10Clouds we believe that agile product development has to be strictly directed into maximizing business value. This means identifying and focusing on the product features that will have the greatest impact on business outcomes. This approach also helps to minimize the chance of failure and ensure effective utilization of resources throughout the product lifecycle. In other words, agile frameworks should maximize efficiency at every stage.
If your company is already more mature, agile transformations are difficult to get right because they involve fundamental changes in the ways people do their jobs every day. For this reason, we need to think differently about how we approach an agile transformation and its corresponding change management effort. Companies have much to gain from helping employees make the adjustment so they can hit the ground running.
Avoid these common mistakes and increase your chances of success
The above examples are just a few of the frequent mistakes and behaviors that you should refrain from during your product development process. At 10Clouds, we have almost 13 years and nearly 300 executed projects under our belt, which means that we’re well placed to offer advice on product delivery management. Our goal is to help our clients to see the bigger picture, as we look past the initial delivery stage and support them through the entire process of development. We also help them to understand how particular decisions will impact future scalability, maintainability, and flexibility. We are committed to helping to support you during every phase of software delivery.