The Simple Process of Digital Product Development
Few things are more frustrating than sunsetting a great technology idea because you couldn’t get the execution right. As an executive you can’t fund every compelling idea that comes your way. When you do fund one, you want to give the project it’s best chance for success.
We frequently meet business owners and executives who have had difficult experiences in the past with digital projects because they and their team had little experience in custom built technology. Sometimes success is elusive when building technology, but there are ways to improve your batting average.
Start out by creating a clearly defined project purpose and objectives that all key stakeholders can align on. Though sometimes elusive, the purpose and objectives will serve as your north star for each of the steps that follow.
With purpose and objectives captured, the team is ready to start defining the user experience.
This entails thinking through the different types of users and what they should be able to do on the platform. This is a highly creative exercise and requires diversity of thought. Surround this early stage with all different kinds of people including designers, developers, business strategists, realists and dreamers. At RevUnit we call this stage collaborative design. We argue over features and use whiteboards to sketch out ideas. By the end of a full day the goal is to have a shared vision with the team on WHO will be able to do WHAT on the platform.
While planning features during collaborative design, remember to build small. Rigorous prioritization of features is essential to successful digital platforms. The larger the build, the more likely there will need to be serious revision once it’s in the wild. By including only those features that are essential to the user, the product will be delivered faster and with less margin for error. This is called a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and is a framework used by many silicon valley companies when building out new tech because of it’s focus on creating usable experiences on very little time and budget.
By building small with an MVP approach the product is delivered faster but smart teams don’t stop there. Technology is never “set it and forget it”. With the product now in the wild they use surveys, embedded feedback tools, user testing and analytics to learn from their user base.
Technology is never "set it and forget it."
Listening posts have to be created to learn which features need adjustment, what should be added, and where are the rough edges that need rounding off. Users today expect technology to learn and grow with them. Great tech teams keep their finger on the pulse of user behavior and feedback.
With the right listening posts in place, feedback can often be overwhelming. The good news is when teams use an MVP approach they should have plenty of budget in reserve to continue iteration on the platform. By building relationships with users the team can more effectively prioritize updates to the platform in the form of a product roadmap. A good roadmap details out all changes to be made including bug fixes, features, and maintenance along with their estimated level of effort and timing. Knowing that there will be ongoing iteration and maintenance for any digital platform is critical to a projects long-term success.