Once you have started product development, keep the following ten practical steps in mind to help you ensure an actionable roadmap.
What is your goal?
What is the goal of the product development? This is not related to features, although the features get you there. This is related to what you ultimately want. Is it about acquiring new customers? Are you adding value to a current offering? Do you want customers to use the app daily, monthly? Are you creating this product as data gathering? What is at the heart of this product development round? Of course, features are important, but this focuses you on why that feature is important and it could possibly impact which features move up in terms of maximum impact to getting to your goal.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Don’t push yourself into inaction. Use the tools we have outlined; Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas, Product Vision Canvas and the Product Canvas, and any other tools you find that would assist you in creating a product strategy to realise your Vision.
Keep It Simple
One story that is built upon with each iteration is more likely to keep your stakeholders engaged and your team moving forward. It is cost effective, allowing the client to use while you develop as well as creating and sustaining a relationship with your user as they journey with you. Remember that there are two stories. One that drives your staff and one that engages with your client. Make sure that all members of the team are involved. This is a space to involve sales and marketing alongside developers and designers. Create cohesion with one story so that the team’s can work together to a common ground. If successful, you will find less silo challenges and a more cohesive team across departments.
Clarity is more important than details
A product development plan is about clarity and simplicity. Don’t over clutter with details. Use your product backlog to keep a firm grip on all the great ideas and ways of getting there. Free up your plan to allow strategy decisions!
Say no and say no often
Related to clarity, although it can be enticing to say yes to all the shiny and cool product features when entering product development, don’t. You will lose focus and worse, you will lose your team. You need to listen to the ideas, weigh them up and decide how to go forward. This is leadership. Again, use a product backlog or keep a board for ‘great ideas for later’ but don’t pack the kitchen sink on every product development. Steve Jobs states that “focus is about saying no” and I would agree. Saying no gives you control over time, creates the space to focus and is more cost effective.
Stakeholders aren’t your only allies
Make sure that your team is onboard. At Polymorph, we work with external teams to realise their Vision and I have watched teams pull themselves apart as each member headed into opposite directions. Make sure that everyone is onboard on the same boat, going in the same direction with the same destination on their maps. I cannot underline this point enough. Make sure you have buy-in or the boat will spin in circles, bring in water and there may even be a mutiny. That may sound dramatic, but anyone with a few product development rounds under their belt will have stories of what happens when team members no longer buy into the product development strategy – it rarely ends well for anyone..
Set the date
Commit to dates for the launch. This gives the team focus and a sense of urgency. It also enables you to say “no” more easily. It allows teams outside of the development team to plan for launches and to get a market ready or activate a market for launch. Publicly setting a date immediately places the product into the outside world in terms of why are we doing this and when is best to launch? If it is an app or chat bot to assist with client queries, it should be ready before Christmas sales or tourist season starts.
Be realistic! When I meet clients and they say they will have a 10 000 users in 3 months or multiple ways of measuring success, I immediately have concerns. As I have mentioned before, have one, maybe two ways to measure success. As an entrepreneur, you are most needed to drive the ship forward! Make sure you check on the position regularly, but make sure your eye is on the horizon constantly.
Determine the costs
While it is true that it is not possible to come up with exact costings before development starts, it is also true that products have been built before. It is always possible to come up with a ballpark figure. Ask what skills are required, how many hours of that skill and then calculate how many people are needed for how long. A rough estimate is all you need to decide if this investment is worth the hoped for outcome. At Polymorph we can advise you on this and with our development strategy in cycles, you will have a list of gains at the end of each cycle.
Review, Adjust, Repeat
Heraclitus the Greek philosopher, said that “change is the only constant in life” and this is especially true in an Agile product development environment. As we develop, we learn, and we integrate that learning as we develop. A way to stay ahead of the curve is to regularly review. I would advise after each iterative cycle or at least every three months.
Keeping the ten steps in mind should give you focus and drive the product development forward in a cohesive, collaborative and clear way.