by Ming Chan
The current digital landscape is constantly evolving — make sure you’re on trend.
Digital has changed everything. Yet we still see businesses and brands — like Blockbuster, Kodak and others — that fell behind because they were too married to their own way of thinking or too slow to adapt to the new reality.
Digital demands new thinking, and the process of building enterprise-level solutions will need to adapt for the digital age. There is now an interactive TV solution created to connect Star Trek fans and transform their viewing experience from passive to interactive. Developers have made it possible for Adobe’s global salesforce to access their latest products anytime/anywhere. A mobile platform designed to engage fans of the Olympics can take them along Team USA’s journey. At The1stMovement, we have built and then seen these products (websites, apps, online tools, etc.) become key offerings at successful enterprises.
If executed correctly, a great digital offering can not only enhance relationships with your customers, but create new sources of revenue. A product becomes a solution when it solves a problem.
But not all products can become solutions. To deliver a product that works, we have discovered four key areas necessary for success:
- A defined value-driven product vision
- A product design for end users
- Features prioritized by impact
- Iterative and incremental improvements
Start With Why
Too often we just have an RFP or a description of what product the client wants to build and how they would like it to be built. However, a successful solution must start with everyone understanding the problems the product is trying to solve or what value the product will provide; we must clearly define the “why” of the product. Aligning the product vision (the “why”) will keep your team focused on what features can deliver the most value.
Important questions to ask as you’re going into the design phase include: “What business problems are you trying to solve?” and “What success metrics should this product hit to drive the most value to the business?”
Focus on the Customer
More often than not, the product features are defined by the business team themselves, who are rarely the intended end users of the product. Great products are designed with the end users’ needs, wants and limitations in mind. You do not always have to spend significant time and money to do qualitative and quantitative research on your users, but you must understand the behavior triggers that lead not only to their engagement, but also that bring them back to the product again and again.
Questions to ask at this point are “Who are your end users?” and “What are the emotional and tactical triggers that would bring them back again and again?”
In recent years, the methodology of lean or agile development has gained much popularity within both large enterprises and startups. So while they began with two different methodologies, both methods have proven effective for solving one of the biggest product development challenges for both enterprises and startups: How can we be more responsive to the ever-changing needs businesses and their end users?
The answer lies in shorter production cycles, more development progress visibility, more collaboration and alignment between stakeholders, more accurate time and budget estimates, and last but not least, a better quality product. These are just some of the many benefits of applying lean or agile development. But they are more than just processes; they are principles that if applied and executed correctly would fundamentally enhance not only the workflow and end results, but the workforce culture itself.
When implementing lean development, ask, “What features would make the most impact against your key metrics?” And, “What features can you build with the least amount of effort to gain the most information on how your users actually use your product?”
Provide Incremental Innovation
Understand that there is no such thing as a perfect product. The products we have grown to love and use every day, from our mobile phones to the cars we drive. They continue to evolve to address increasing customer desires. The same goes for any digital product.
Listen, learn, build and measure. This revolving cycle of product development focuses on a series of small improvements. This will improve the product’s competitive position over time, thus fostering innovation.
A question to ask after you’ve built your product: “Are you listening to your users through continuous analytics and measurements, to improve your product?”
Developing a product that works is not like building a house. If you leave it alone, it will become less useful to the users overtime. Focusing on the product vision, designing against your user expectations and innovating based on data will allow your product to become a solution that actually fixes an evolving problem.
A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.
As CEO of The1stMovement, Ming Chan was named as one of the “Top 10 Asian Entrepreneurs in America” by Inc. Magazine, and has led the agency to numerous accolades including 3-time Inc. 500 “Fastest Growing Private Companies in America”, 5-time “Best Places to work in LA”, and 5000% growth in 5 years. A Silicon Valley software engineer by trade, Ming was the recipient of the prestigious Primetime Emmy® award in “Technical Excellence in Interactive TV”, and has architected many digital solutions for some of the world’s most renowned brands including 20th Century Fox, ABC, Adobe, Apple, AMD, Cisco, Disney, Microsoft, Nike, HP, Intel, Sun Microsystems, Sony Pictures and more, before founding The1stMovement in 2006.