Is Your Product Development Effort Turning Into a Never-Ending Project?

Published August 13, 2018 - By Bikramjit Singh

Product development has gone beyond the nascent discipline it was just a few years ago. New products are helping businesses leverage new opportunities, defining new markets and addressing user needs like never before. All too often, however, product development efforts fall short of their intended goals and end up as never-ending projects. This article examines why, and what we can do about it.

Is it a Project, or a Product?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably stuck somewhere in the product development phase, and despite all your effort, you don’t seem to be making any progress. But, here's a question you need to ask yourself - are you approaching product development just like you would any software project? Do you know what makes product development different? Are you organised for product development, or regular software projects?


Are you approaching product development just like you would any software project?


Do you know what makes product development different? And more challenging?


Are you organised for product development, or regular software projects?

Building a product is very different from working on a regular software 'project' even though there are a lot of similarities. Where standard software projects give you some leeway in the way you organise your teams, the deliverables you expect, and the technical architecture you follow, Product development needs discipline every step of the way - from defining product ownership to building backlogs early on in the process, you need to organise yourself differently when developing products.

You need a strategy that emphasizes component-based design, exceptional user experience, and consistent code quality and standards throghout. You need to let go of short-term project wins with long-term vision of ensuring scalability, reliability and reusability for your product. Most importantly, Product development needs to be organised so as to enable handover to a different team at short notice without causing major issues. And you need top-notch talent and processes to bring it all together. Without the right team, your product development will most certainly fail to live up to expectations, or fail to achieve its objectives.

You need to ensure these necessary ingredients of product development are in place to ensure your products get to market.

All the Neat Features. For Whom?

So who asked for all those nifty features you're putting into your product? Was it your gut-feeling; customer requirements; or end-users? Which features are the most difficult or time-consuming to implement? Are they worth it? How do you know?

A great product may not be a great-selling product unless it meets the needs of end-users. And you need to define what constitutes success for you. Is it Customer Satisfaction? Timely Completion? Within Budget? User Adoption? Develop metrics to help you monitor and measure your progress. If you are measuring it, you'll know where you're going wrong on your product development initiative. Focus on the needs of your product's consumers, and you'll know what to develop.

So, doesn't innovation count? What about all those great features you want to deliver? Innovation counts. Sure. But the value you deliver with your product counts MUCH more. Developing the product right doesn't always mean you developed the right product. And it's important for you to know.

Going Beyond the Customer

It takes a lot of time to stay abreast of the changes the tech world is seeing. Expecting a customer to be aware of everything and hence 'define' what's possible isn't going to help with product development initiatives. Product managers to define the 'right product' that addresses the needs of the target audience and solves real problems.

It isn't that customer feedback or involvement isn't important. Just that you need to use customer feedback to know about the pain points and understanding their frustrations, rather than defining solutions.

Moving targets

Successful products are built with a clear vision and a defined roadmap to designing, developing and rolling out new features. Features are aligned to the benefits the end-users get and there is little or no feature creep in the current release cycle. Prototyping and validating ideas is key to avoiding moving targets that often delay product launch.

Quality is Free

It really is. Quality assurance team needs to be involved in product teams right from the start so they can advise of potential pitfalls early on, reducing cycle time and improving the efficiency of the team as a whole.

The End Game

So your product is ready to make waves. What's next? Huge success - right? (Much) more often than not, Nope! You need to work with your end-customers to ensure product adoption. The only end-objective worth working towards is satisfied customers using your product in a commercially viable manner. Until you achieve that, every other metric is useless. You may have great reviews, interviews, comparative evaluation wins, even land major customers. And yet, none of this counts.

Focus on the most important part of the product development puzzle - your end-customers. Once you achieve that (it's easier said than done), everything else falls into place.


Bikramjit Singh

COO, Millipixels Interactive LLP

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