Setting Goals for Product
In the last 20 years, we have witnessed an era of software apps that have simplified our lives through tech-driven miniaturization and the handy control of products at the tap of a finger. Smartphones and wearable gadgets have eaten up space previously occupied by hardware products like radios, watches, alarm clocks, calculators, music players, etc. Not long back, such products used to be part of our daily routine, and we did not consciously realize when they started disappearing from our lives. It happened because of the frequent launch of software products and faster technology acceptance in all age groups. Because of this disruption, many start-ups got big fast, gaining the status of leading brands. As a result, many established brands that were once part of a market monopoly or duopoly lost their edge and leading position in the market.
Of course, we cannot predict with exactness what the trend will do for the next 20 years. However, we can expect that new and upgraded versions of products will be launched to address the contemporary needs of humanity.
Much that changed during the last two decades was on top of an elemental foundation: "Start-up Eco-System" wherein "Product" became the reason for problem-solving and business growth. Every product is designed and developed to solve a business problem. Every business problem can be narrowed down and called a social problem. And every social problem is essentially a human problem. The primary goal of a product is to solve that problem. It begins with an understanding of the problem people face, without making assumptions, and confirming it on the basis of supporting data that it is indeed a problem worth solving.
One of the most common reasons behind product failures and setbacks is the failure to identify and define the problem and set a clear goal for the product. Once the goal is set, it must be circulated amongst all stakeholders so they can get excited and feel happy to work on achieving that common goal.
Kickstart: Forming Product Team
It needs to be a team effort, and the first question that comes to mind when you form a new team for the envisaged product is certainly:
Whether to do with an in-house team or tie-up with a partner?
Opting for an in-house team is suitable when you have talent acquisition capabilities to hire fast, in-depth understanding of business domain and technology, and time to work with people closely. Yes, people! You must work with your team on a day-to-day basis and integrate them as "one team" or "one power." A common mistake made by C-levels / Founders / Co-founders is defining product goals, delegating them to the team they hire, and being only concerned about the outcome. This will add unnecessary high risk when they do not closely work with the team to make sure the team is aligned with their vision, mission, and that the team faces no blockers while working on achieving product goals. We must be aware, vigilant, and careful that the team is passionate about the product and does not merely work to "complete" tasks assigned to them.
Finding a business and/or technology partner is not easy. Successful partnerships can only be built when there is trust, and both parties can discover a win-win model. Trust is not exchanged with signed agreements but earned when you work together. The only way to have a long-term working relationship is to work for one goal on a vested partnership model and delivery value.
When you form a team, there is a transition-in phase, and it takes time to streamline processes. Here, the role of a leader/product owner is most important.
Execution: People & Processes
It is all about processes: analysing the current state and then improving them. Processes are not set and streamlined in one shot. It takes time to establish procedures. This can be achieved using a software engineering model, framework, or tools to manage the product team. While product requirements may or may not evolve quickly, it is always advisable to document and update processes to minimize human intervention and scope for lapses. Product documentation is typically done by the Product Manager (PM) or those who support the PM. An easy way to refine and update processes is to organize weekly or bi-weekly reviews with the team and business stakeholders.
The product roadmap must be process-driven rather than people-driven. Of course, people will join or leave the team, but well-defined processes help in mitigating risks and contingencies.
Product teams are under immense pressure to meet deadlines. While they are working on releases, business decisions may directly impact the product roadmap, leading to team upsizing/downsizing. Also, the market influences "features" that may become irrelevant upon Go-Live or features that were not planned and completed. Finally, there may be crises and chaotic scenarios, such as a pandemic. Amidst unforeseen challenges and factors beyond your control, it is prudent that the original Product Goal does not change. And if it changes, the impact is measured, and the product roadmap is refined in real-time.
Customer Engagement is Key
Most people without a background in the product journey believe that product development is a one-shot process followed by limited maintenance. However, it can never be a one-shot process. It is always an ongoing process. Merely going live is not the goal for any product. Actual feedback comes when customers start using it, and continuous O&M (Operations & Maintenance) support is required. Three factors – time, cost, and resources define the product roadmap. Only one aspect defines its success – customer engagement and feedback. Therefore, it is not recommended to miss or ignore customer reviews and product ratings. A high-performing product team always has a customer success team that constantly monitors and responds to customers and reports to the engineering team.
A product mindset is the outcome of living it and going on a product journey. It only happens after you've been a part of this journey and have confronted the challenges along the way. This journey is not a smooth ride. It is full of ups n downs, sliding, hits and trials, errors, blockers, showstoppers, and lapses. With a product mindset, all you need is one thought: keep trying and don't give up; get back up every time you fall, and success will follow.