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How to create winning products?

Creating winning products and services is a journey and not a destination. The creation of products or services has constantly been through iterations, trials and errors and no one product or service has ever been created in a single stroke or with a single wave of any magical wand.

In my assessment, there are two schools of practice in designing and developing products and services. One is Customer research-led and the other is Customer feedback-led. While choosing one over the other is unnecessary, it is also difficult to bucket all products and services creations only under these two approaches.

The Customer feedback-led approach is based on starting with the problems the Customers currently have and then iteratively building the products or Services on what the Customer wants. However, the solutions or values are created basis the product managers' assessment and understanding of the Customer's problems. (Example Apple products).

Feedback-led iterations can be:

  • Sequential or simultaneous, based on the requirements of the improvement and what resources are available.

  • Each individual iteration should be both manageable and managed.

  • This should lead to tangible results seen in a timely manner and this helps create further improvement.

The Customer research-led approach to product or service design and development focuses on studying the customers' needs and wants extensively, across markets, and then producing the output of what the research throws. Customer research here is about market research and customer behaviours across various parameters including psychographic segmentation. (Example most FMCG products in India).

Whatever the products or services that are developed, Customers should remain at the core of the design and development process. So whatever the approaches we follow, Product Managers need to be owners of the entire product development cycle including the release process. Customers' continuous feedback and validation are important and Product Managers need to be focused on this all the time (It's not a one-time exercise for sure) if they need to churn out winning products and services all the time.

Whatever the product development strategy (whether waterfall or agile) the Product Managers follow, they need to allocate and spend a good amount of time evaluating customer feedback and market validation continually. Product managers who remain truthful to this concept are almost always at the edge and in close touch with customer experiences and feedback. This becomes valuable in perfecting the product/service in line with customers'/market expectations.

Process Advice: To apply this principle successfully, consider this advice:

  • Understanding the big picture is important but so is making progress. Remember none of the latest technology-driven products happened overnight. They are part of the whole but iterated in line with Customer expectations and released frequently.

  • Do not desire to understand and account for everything. When iterating to accommodate all features expected by Customers, it's OK to leave some for later. The key is to progress slowly, but steadily.

  • Never fall into the "Analysis Paralysis" trap. Time wasted in analysing the situation leads to nothing ever getting done as a result.

  • The ecosystem is constantly changing, so continuous feedback is essential.

  • Use feedback from all Customers and stakeholders alike.

  • Agile and releasing products and services in an agile manner does not mean releasing incomplete products or services.

  • Use the minimum viable product (MVP) – a version of the final product which allows the maximum amount of validated learning with the least effort.

Result: A Product/Service that is not only successful but also closely aligned (and almost always) with Customer expectations providing solutions to their problems.

Ravishankar Gopalan


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