As organizations continue to chase the elusive recurring revenue they are turning more and more to product development. Yes, product development is risky and expensive but when done right can lead to significant revenue and even better margins. Once your product is released and out the door then what do you do? If you want to keep renewing those support agreements you need to have a sound product strategy in place that caters to the needs of not only your existing customers but your potential ones as well. This post will discuss a little bit about building your product strategy.
Get Your Customers Involved
Nobody has better insight to your customers’ needs than your customers. Provided you maintain a good relationship with your customers there’s no reason that they won’t be willing to share ideas with your team that will ultimately benefit them in the long run. Most product strategies include a feature roadmap where customers and other stakeholders can see the long term vision of the product. In order to build this roadmap you need ideas. While your team can very likely think of some pretty cool stuff to build, your customers will be a key source of information for not only validating these ideas but also giving you ideas by way of what their needs are (and their needs are likely ever-changing). Getting your customers engaged is easy – give them a forum to submit ideas (online portal, user group sessions, conferences, etc.) and let the ideas organically grow your product.
Identify Market Trends
Every product serves an industry or vertical market. Every product needs to have some in-house vision or guidance on where that market is going and how that product can stay ahead of the curve in order to service the current and future needs of your customers. Identifying industry trends that are sweeping across your customer and market base is key for building out your product strategy. What are your customers’ customers needing? How can your product help make their lives easier? Are there infrastructure advances you can leverage for a better end user experience? Think from the value-add perspective – what is going to set your product apart from the competition? (don’t say price)
Build & Engage Your Product Team
Often times organizations will mix and match resources to work on product based on availability – picking the resources who aren’t billable often make up product teams. While this may be a feasible strategy in the short term, companies who are serious about getting into the product game need to make sure that the product team is made up of a group of individuals who have the right skillset, mindset and attitude to make your product a success. Having a revolving door of resources coming and going through product development is a recipe for disaster. Not only are you contributing to constant thrashing but you are also fragmenting the in-house knowledge of your product. Yes, by having a dedicated project team there are risks (what if someone quits) but those risks can be mitigated at a substantially less cost than having to continually manage moving resources. Once your team is solidified, get them engaged on product strategy – let their industry and technical expertise help drive (not totally steer) the ship. The more engaged your product team is, the more invested they feel when they are actually designing, building and implementing your product.
Product strategy is nothing new and has been around for a long time yet a lot of organizations who build and deliver products do so in a reactive way, not thinking forward and getting ahead of the curve. Product strategy is difficult but follow these three tips for getting started on your way.