When designing and developing a new product, you have to maintain an objective overview of the situation, and always be ready to take a step back and readjust if you see that things aren’t working out as intended. Failing to understand this is at the root of many failures on the market, and it’s likely not something that we’re going to see slowing down anytime soon.
This doesn’t have to be the case in your organization though. As long as you know how to maintain a sensible approach to the development of your product, you should be able to ensure that it meets the demands of the market you’re launching it in.
A Sensible Initial Plan
It all starts with a proper plan. Start small and keep adding in small iterations until you’ve reached a state where you’re both happy with the way the project looks and you’re confident in your ability to pull it off. The last bit is important. Many failed projects can be traced back to a manager who overestimated the capacity of their team.
And considering how difficult it can be to readjust once you’ve discovered that this is the case in your project, it’s a good idea to make sure that things make sense on the drawing board. Consult as many people who are going to be involved as possible, and don’t leave anyone important out. The realization that you’ve missed the input of someone critical can be quite damaging if it comes too late.
The Bigger Picture
Always maintain an overview of the bigger picture as well. How exactly you’re going to go about this depends on the tools you’re using, but as long as you have a proper project management system, this shouldn’t be very difficult. If you’re using Kanban, make sure to break down your larger bodies of work into smaller Kanban user stories. This can be a great way to achieve small victories at a time (completing tasks) and eventually visualize the flow of your work progress. This is especially true in larger teams with multiple people working on variety of projects, in which case Kanban can be a total game changer.
Reiterating on Failing Features
Not everything is going to work out exactly how you planned it. And that’s okay – as long as you are able to go back on those features and revise them until they meet the needs of the project. This requires a flexible framework as a foundation for the whole thing. Make sure that you organize your work in a modular way that makes it easy to go back on anything that you might not be pleased with. Remember, failure is expected, and it’s part of the game – it’s how you cope with it that matters the most.
The Importance of Early Feedback
Working with customers can be a real challenge, especially if you have a larger market in front of you. Sadly, you can’t always trust people to know what exactly they want to get from a product. This makes it important to get as much feedback as possible, aggregate it, and look for patterns that stand out.
Early market research can go a long way towards ensuring that your product is fit for whatever audience you’re releasing it to, but it has to be done in a balanced way. You don’t want to reveal any features that you’re not confident in yet – especially if there’s a risk that they might be removed later. False promises can quickly kill the reputation of a product, and the company behind it as well.
Getting your product out the door is not the end of the story – not by a long shot. With many types of products these days, people have an expectation for post-launch support and you have a responsibility to deliver on that. This is especially valid for some types of products, like software. As long as you have an easy way to adjust the product’s features and improve it after it’s been launched, people will expect that you’re going to put effort into that.
And this is not something you can start doing without solid preparation, either. You have to develop your product from the ground up with the idea of post-launch support and ensure that customers will not get irritated by the way you’re going about it. Few things are more annoying in trying to use a new product than being constantly pestered with update notifications that can’t be avoided.
It’s a similar situation with physical products. If it turns out that you need to do some major adjustment in order to fix a flaw, you’d best be prepared to cover the cost of that adjustment out of your own pocket. Otherwise, you’re going to have a very displeased group of customers to deal with. And the blow this can deliver to the reputation of your company, in the long run, is something you might not be able to recover from at all.