8 Things I Believe About Building Products

I have spent the bulk of my career helping organizations of all sizes figure out how to solve customer problems. Most of the time this has involved a form of technology development or implementation.  While watching some products succeed and others fail, a few trends appeared.

Customers should always be at the center of everything a product organization does. But, most of the modern trends in product development miss the mark on what you should do. Leaders, managers, individual contributors and consultants propagate outdated advice on building technology products.

If you want to build technology solutions that solve real problems for customers, this is what I believe about building products.

1. Your methodology is irrelevant to your success.

Agile, Scrum, SAFe, Waterfall, Lean are all suitable methods to achieve your product goals. But they aren’t the end-goal, just the process. Methodology is secondary to hitting your targets. Be the best Waterfall organization instead of a mediocre Agile group.

2. Stop developing business cases. 

The further out you predict the financial value of a product launch, the less likely you will be accurate. A 10-year revenue forecast might as well be a 100-year one. If you don’t spend the effort on value capture either, what is the point of a projection?

3. Your customers don’t want your product. 

Your customers have no interest in the actual product you deliver. Instead, customers want the solution or benefit it provides – whether actual or perceived.

4. More data won’t save you.

Key performance indicators are important to determine whether your products are on track for success. More indicators don’t mean you will have better insight. Likely, you only need a handful of discrete data points.

5. Planning trumps execution every time. 

Spending the time to plan products up front saves you from negative customer impact, bloated costs and moving in the wrong direction. Time to market matters only if you are moving in the right direction in the right market with the right customers.

6. Defects won’t lose customers.

One hundred percent defect-free products rarely exist. Customers don’t leave products because of small flaws in overall functionality. Customers leave products that don’t solve a problem or don’t benefit them in an identifiable and, preferably, quantifiable way.

7. Build simplistically. 

Technology product development doesn’t need to be complicated. From ideation, through documentation, development and launch, you should have one resonating mantra – keep it simple. This applies to your product as well – not just the process. The simplest solution is the most elegant solution.

8. Technology innovation is overkill. 

Most cutting-edge technology only marginally improves the value you can deliver to your customers. You should identify methods to incorporate nascent technology in your long-term roadmaps to future-proof your products, but don’t get caught up in the technology buzzwords.

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