Behind the scenes of product development: Building the perfect product
Most on the customer side of product development don’t see the long days and hard nights that go into creating an amazing product. Your product’s success is much like an iceberg. The bulk of the berg (what actually happens) lies beneath the calm waters and your customers see only the shiny tip (your product) sticking out. The following infographic depicts what you can expect to experience when creating your product.
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Now let’s inspect the stuff only those involved in product development see.
What does dedication mean to you? In product development, it’s a near-obsession with creating your MVP. You give it your all, from putting in tons of time to an extreme focus on innovation and stick-to-itive-ness. If you had to choose only one trait to help you succeed, it should be dedication.
Dedication keeps you going in the face of failures, trials, and challenges. Because you will face those, sometimes in abundance. But by immersing yourself completely into achieving your goals, you can overcome.
Perhaps the most singularly focused entrepreneur, Elon Musk dedicates himself completely to each one of his projects. Consider how after he sold PayPal to eBay, he set his sights on Mars, no small feat. Musk sets out to change the world through dedication to his dreams and goals. In one of his TED Talks, Musk said, “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”
If product development were a breeze, everyone would do it, right? Since it’s a little more complicated as the infographic represents, you need to build a team that is not afraid of hard work. And it starts with you, the founder.
Hard work incorporates the self-discipline, the right attitude, and the ability to put your own needs last. If you can combine these three elements—and add in dedication—you’ll be on the path to achieving your highest potential. In fact, no one ever achieves success without hard work.
Henry Ford once stated, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” An excellent article to read is one on LinkedIn by Subin Das PK, entitled “The Importance of Hard Work in Success.” Another fine example is Thomas Oppong’s “Hard Work is the Single Greatest Competitive Advantage.”
Discipline helps you and your team focus on what’s important and stay the course when challenges arise and failure happens. It also helps you avoid egos blocking creation of an outcome rather than an idea. Your outcome is an MVP that delights your customers. It’s not one person’s or even the team’s idea about what that product should look like.
Product development and design is more than just about the responsibilities of the designers and managers. When you limit yourself and your team to responsibilities, you limit the point of view and the opportunity to use a cross-disciplined set of skills and know-how. Think of the discipline of product management as planning’s more holistic evolution over the past several years.
If you want to dig deeper into the discipline of product management, read Faruk Ates’ article in Product Matters on Medium. Another great read is “How to Master the Discipline of Product Management (Not the Job of Product Manager)” by Eric Jorgenson.
Ongoing feedback & customer engagement
Have you run across this quote from Jim Barksdale, former CEO of Netscape? “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
The above quote should make you stop and wonder for a moment: who or what is driving your team’s decisions? Is it continuous feedback from and engagement with your customers? If it’s not, you may end up with something different from what your customers want.
How do you really know which features and benefits are most important if you don’t ask your customers? Engaging often with your customers during sprints will help you focus on an MVP that won’t flop right out of the gate. If you want your product development & launch to be successful, this is one area you can’t afford to skimp on.
TechTarget has an excellent article, “The Impact of Real Buyer Insights on Product Management and Marketing Decisions.” Another post you should read is Forbes’ “3 Reasons to Ask for Customer Feedback.”
Yes, there will be setbacks and challenges. Some you may struggle to overcome while others you figure out a work-around. So don’t go into product management if you can’t accept disappointment and learn to move on.
If a product succeeds, it’s a team win. If it fails, it’s more likely the product management’s fault. You and your team will face disappointments; they’re inevitable. You must be ready to get outside your comfort zone and attack disappointment head on. Your end goal is to make sure you don’t disappoint customers with your MVP.
Rewrites & revisions
Two of the biggest challenges you’ll face in product management are rewriting test cases and sorting out which elements stay and which go. In addition, moving forward without a clear picture of your end deliverable can cause hours of revisions, rewriting documentation, and more.
It’s nice for the team to tackle tasks that seem simple. But without adequate customer feedback and other data, what takes the team an hour to complete could run into 8 hours to rewrite and revise on the back end.
Still, some rewrites and revisions will happen despite your best intentions. Make sure your team gets the time and the support to rewrite and revise as necessary.
“Why code reviews matter” is an excellent article on how code review can help save time on rewrites and revisions.
One of the hardest things you may face in creating an MVP is sacrifice. If your company has competing goals, strategies, and objectives, you may find your product on hold while the company pursues another one. As a product management professional, it’s your job to keep your team motivated despite of sacrifices made.
You also must make sacrifices when you come across roadblocks. If the roadblock is big enough, you may need to sacrifice a popular feature to get your MVP out. And at some point, you will need to sacrifice perfection to release your product.
Siddharth Gurjar, Senior Product Manager at Audible.com, wrote an excellent article in LinkedIn: “Product Management is Sacrifice.” Another resource you should read is Product Tank’s “Top 5 Ways Product Managers can help Developer’s Love Them.”
There are small failures that happen almost daily in product developement. When you talk more than you listen to your team, you’re failing them. And when you refuse to learn from other’s mistakes, expect failure to hit.
Then there are the big ones: product failure. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but when it does, it’s normally not one single thing. The key is to learn how to take failing products and transform them into customer delights.
Working with customers early and often is one way to avoid failure. Another way is to create a living, breathing product roadmap that evolves and grows as your product does. Your product roadmap can help you avoid surprises down the road.
Zainab Zaki, Principal Product Manager at Capital One, penned an excellent article on LinkedIn entitled, “5 ways I failed as a product manager and the lessons I learnt.” One insight from her post is, “You don’t always get all the credit, but you do always get the blame.”
The podcast This is Product Management has interviewed over 80 experts and found processes and practices are important. But they take a back seat to grit and persistence.
Another expert, Gibson Biddle who was the former VP/CPO at Netflix/Chegg, has an excellent article you should read, “Hacking Your Product Management Career.” He talks about how persistence is a key for product managers. You need to persist through hardships, disappointments, and failure.
In fact, you need to become somewhat of a superhero. You work long hours, stretch yourself across various departments, and make plenty of tough calls. Above all else, you must be persistent in meeting or exceeding the various demands and requirements of those you protect and support.
Look again at the iceberg infographic. Before you begin your next product development, take a moment to come to terms with the iceberg you’ll run into under the calm surface. Everyone might not face each of the below decks pieces, but most will. When you’re ready to face the good and the bad, start with your product roadmap. Consider it the beacon to help you navigate around the iceberg.