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New product development strategy

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15 min read
Szymon

Szymon Dyrlaga

Content Strategist

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Thinking about new product development? You need a strategy! We have formulated one based on years of experience. The idea is to go live with the product as soon as possible. Ideally, in less than three months.

In new product development strategy time to market matters

It’s pretty clear from the data that time to market matters. The sooner you get feedback from the users, the more time and money you will have to improve your product. It’s easy to get distracted and overspend on features you think your users want. Most entrepreneurs are convinced that they know what’s right, but without user feedback they are only guessing.

How do we know that our new product development strategy works?

Going live in less than 3 months is not a marketing gimmick, a trick, or a golden hammer that solves all problems - it’s a response to real market needs, based on data.

This is how the most successful entrepreneurs work, and it can help you to achieve great results too. Delivering a working software to production in less than 3 months is a strategy that will allow you to validate your hypothesis, have better control over your budget, check your ability to execute, make sure that your selected software partner delivers and last but not least, get in there before your competitors.

Why should you go live in less than 3 months?

Below you'll learn 7 good reasons we know from our daily work on new product launches.

  1. Validate market need

    Every entrepreneur, just like you, has a brilliant idea of the ideal product and what users want, need and are willing to pay. But until the idea has been validated by the market, it is just a hypothesis. In reality, most ideas don’t survive contact with real users. This is why it is vital to validate your hypothesis, fast and at a low cost.

  2. Get market feedback

    Steve Jobs said that “people don’t know what they want until you give it to them”. True, but they also don’t know what they don’t want until you give it to them. The best way to decide what a product should look like and how much people are willing to pay for it is to ask the market, the users, and the community. Ignoring market feedback is a waste of time and money. And the sooner you get it, the faster you will know if you’re on the right track.

    The two points above address the most common reason startups fail: The lack of a real market need.

  3. Save time, money, and energy

    Despite great technological advancements, software development still consumes enormous amounts of time, money, and energy. In most cases, time equals money and vice versa. Instead of spending your entire budget on building a complete product or a feature-rich MVP, it’s better to focus on the core, the differentiator, and complete it in a fraction of the time. And once it’s live, you still have a budget for necessary adjustments.

  4. Show investors, clients, and users what you can do

    Having a working product at an early stage of your business development proves that you are a skilled entrepreneur. It’s also a sign for your investors and clients that you can deliver what you promised - not to mention that the sooner you tune your offering, the better for the company. This is how trust is built in product development before reaching mainstream adoption.

  5. Build a safety net for providers and partners

    Whether you have your own development team or use a dedicated software partner, going live in less than 3 months is a great way to test the team’s capabilities. Anyone can claim that they are able to deliver 2-year-long project - especially during the first one and a half year. Building a product that brings business value in less than 3 months is a different and safer type of challenge. And even if the project fails, your loss is minimal.

  6. Challenge your comfort zone

    Arguably, the most difficult part of building a business is knowing where to start. Unless you have done it before, it will require a great amount of confidence, dedication and self-motivation. Simply put, you have to leave your comfort zone and the sooner you do it, the better. Make sure your business becomes a real product that can be used by real people, and not a never-ending document with a growing list of requirements.

  7. Prove that you can execute and not just talk

    To make your company a success, you will most likely need support from professional VC firms, Angel Investors, or friends and family. The sooner you get traction, the better conditions of potential investments you can get. Traction is solid proof that your business model works - it shows that you can get customers and that you know how to execute, not just talk.

WHAT DOES THE DATA SAY?

Only 10% of startups succeed. Yep, it's hard to believe but it’s the truth. Only 1 out of 10 companies today will exist in 5 years. Most of these will struggle to get through the 50 mlllion revenue breakpoint, and only a fraction will reach the status of a unicorn company.

We want to work with entrepreneurs who understand this

From the perspective of a product development company, ‘go live in less than 3 months’ might look like the opposite of what a typical service provider wants, which is more billable hours. Longer time to market, more features implemented and more meetings all result in higher fees.

The thing is that we are entrepreneurs like yourself. We think differently because we know how hard it is to build a profitable company.

New product development strategy consisting of going live in 3 months

Think of your MVP as a car with a strong chassis and a stunning body, but with limited features inside. It works well enough to be showcased and presented to early adopters, but it won’t be mass produced before you are sure that it has a future.

 

It's a working product

Developed, tested, and released in accordance with modern development practices. It is stable enough to use it to process real data from real users, including money. In fact, to go fast you do not need to cut the quality - the key is to invest in aspects that matter in the long run. A proper level of quality guarantees a proper pace of development.

 

It can be tested with real data in a real environment

Production data often defines corner cases that are hard to predict in test environments. Real users will find ways to make your development team wonder how it was even possible. The sooner you get feedback from users, the faster you will eliminate potential corner cases before they become problems.

Products don’t exist in a void. Many contemporary products are connected to other platforms and often depend on them to some degree. Testing interactions early decreases the risk of failure and ensures that third party systems work well.

 

You have something to show investors, clients and users 

Go beyond mockups, powerpoint presentations, and clickable prototypes. A real product can be tested by users and clients, and investors get a feeling for what they are paying for. If properly matched with marketing and sales, you may even be able to prove traction empirically, which puts you in a strong position for future negotiations.

 

It looks good

Let’s be honest, it does not need to be perfect but it should appeal to users and investors. With proper UX implemented from day one, your chances of getting traction increase. The user interface is likely to change several times but when done right, this is what could make or break the business game.

 

It covers the core of your business

The first version of your product should cover the core of your business. The most basic functionalities that make you stand out from the crowd, the things that are unique and specific for you. In some cases, it will only cover the most risky and unknown areas that you want to validate before committing to full product development. The goal is to build enough to get market feedback.

 

It's limited to the most important features

A product created in 3 months or less will probably not have any extra, nice-to-have features. The art is to stay focused, set realistic goals, validate important hypotheses and implement the minimum required for the product to work. Speed is a result of making smart choices, not of typing twice as fast. An excellent Product Owner helps you to save both money and time, not to mention effort that you can be spent elsewhere.

 

It is built in a way that can be extended easily

This is not about “hacking” things but rather about utilising technical excellence in a way that assures the software can be extended in the future. Skilled developers know where they should invest their time to maximize the results - not all of the parts of the code are equal. This can be achieved with an excellent team that has been trained to prioritize technical alignment.

 

It is deployed on a stable infrastructure

Regardless of time constraints, everything on a production level infrastructure should work in a way that is fully scalable and resilient. Sacrificing this step for something cheaper or quicker can easily result in a bad user experience. At Pragmatic Coders, we have developed our own set of infrastructure as code templates to quickly bootstrap AWS production ready infrastructure for our clients. This way we can assure a stable development pace across all projects.

 

new product strategy

How we do it (and you can, too)

So, how do we do it? Throughout the years, we have collected a number of key factors that allow us to prepare such a new product development strategy. We believe that going live with valuable products in less than 3 months helps to:

Identify your real goal

First of all, you need to figure out your real goal. What do you want to achieve in the next few months? It’s crucial to be honest with yourself, the real goal is often hidden below the surface. Ask yourself these questions:

Are you trying to prove to investors that you are able to build a complete solution? If so, should you start by developing a demo app that explains your competitive advantage?

Do you want to test your product hypothesis with real users? Perhaps you would like to check if your users will love your idea so much that they are willing to pay for it?

Are you planning to optimize a manual process that has powered your business until now? If so, how much would you like to invest in it so that it still makes financial sense? What’s the expected outcome and what metrics will prove that it was a good move?

Is it an R&D development intended to prove that it’s possible to build a product from a technical standpoint within a sensible budget? In this case, you can start by prototyping the most unknown, risky part of your future product. Removing that risk from the equation will allow you to spend your budget on the features you know will be useful later on.

 

Reduce the scope

When building products, a proper scope is 80% of the success. Most people struggle to cut the backlog to the absolute minimum - but with an experienced Product Owner, it’s possible. For sure it will be hard, but it is doable. The best way to save money is to maximize the amount of work not done while still meeting your goal. This is what we do every day, and you can too!

 

Balance quality and speed

We often hear that to achieve greater speed, we need to compromise quality. We don’t buy this. Good quality is the basis of good speed, especially over time. This can be achieved with a technically excellent development team that understands where they can cut the corners and where they should invest time to deliver superior quality.

 

Focus on value delivery

To deliver a working product, you need a good team. On the one hand, even simple things can be frustrating when the people who work on them fail to capture the business value behind them. On the other hand, a development team that truly understands your business value is your biggest asset. Such a team knows how to find a level of quality that will ensure a stable development pace now and in the future.

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Give the product team control

The product team (Product Owner and developers) need to have control over the following questions during product development:

  • Who does what?
  • What is the order of execution?
  • What is the scope of the current iterations?
  • What needs to be optimized and how?

A competent product team knows what can be achieved and how to do it. Leaving these decisions to them requires trust, but can lead to both huge time savings and better quality.

 

Use pre-built components

Whenever possible, search for reusable components. At Pragmatic Coders, we learned a long time ago that every product we build has user management capabilities - so we created a user management system that provides basic functionality from day one. We also found out that setting up the frontend of our application takes time, so we designed frontend starters that speed up the development by weeks. The same with infrastructure - most of the cloud-based apps use a similar stack. Setting up an infrastructure for each project is a simple re-work from our perspective. By creating our AWS infrastructure starters as code, we reduced that process from weeks to a few hours.

 

Choose a 5-star team with a strong technical leader

Only a mature, business-oriented team of experienced developers can make the right product decisions. Empowering an inexperienced team to take crucial business decisions is asking for trouble. To deliver value in less than 3 months, you need a team that is truly able to understand and shape your business. We call such teams 5-star development teams - your experience should be comparable to the service you get in a 5-star hotel. The team should always be one step ahead with the product development so that you have the time and energy to focus on growing your business.

 

Mitigate the technological risk by making business-oriented decisions 

New technologies and frameworks appear every day. Some gain popularity quickly only to lose it shortly afterwards. Sometimes, a new technology gives you the leverage you need - this is what happened when the blockchain appeared, for example. A good team understands that the primary function of technology is to serve the business, not the other way around. They know when to explore a new technology and when to keep building features in well-known tools.

 

Keep stakeholders up-to-date with the development process

Everyone involved in the product development needs to be aware of the process. There is no magic framework that works in all cases, so it’s crucial to figure out a way early on and finetune it along the way. At Pragmatic Coders, this is one of the tasks of our Product Owner - making sure that everyone is informed of the process throughout the project.

 

Make tough decisions fast

During the product development life-cycle, various decisions have to be taken. Some of these decisions will be tough, but can be achieved through proper management and a solid decision-making process. The sooner you deal with the hard choices, the better for the business long term. A good product team can make the right choice fast and effectively.

 

Why does a new product development company like us care about going live in less than 3 months?

One of our goals is to contribute to building at least 10 unicorns by 2030. To achieve that we cannot waste time on projects that are likely to be validated negatively by the market after years of development. Not all products released in less than 3 months have the potential to become unicorns, but they have a much better chance.

 

We want to be honest about our capabilities and the delivery

Anyone who claims that they can estimate a complex project beyond a few months is not telling the truth. As a minimum, such estimates need to include a huge risk margin that takes the unknown into account. This margin or reserve is a hidden cost that clients have to pay at the end. If the estimate is wrong, something - usually quality - will have to be sacrificed during the development.

 

It's easier to reason about products with limited scope

In the early days of Pragmatic Coders, we spent a lot of time estimating complex projects for our clients. To be honest with our clients, we tried to understand the products and users deeply and consider all the risks. In reality, the scope of the product changes as soon as it touches the market. Sometimes more, sometimes less - but even this variation makes all the estimates irrelevant. Discussing features that are never implemented is a waste of time both for you as an entrepreneur and for us who want to deliver valuable products together with you.

 

Talk is cheap - show me the product

We like to say “Talk is cheap - show me the product”. Only by delivering value can we prove that we are the right partner for our clients. Everything else is just talking, which everyone knows how to do well.

 

Kill complexity before complexity kills growth

In software engineering, the only way to deal with problems that are too big for our brains is to break it down into smaller chunks, simplify and reiterate. This rule also applies to products that are inherently complex. Distilling and implementing the core of the product allows us to understand the real solution. By splitting requirements into milestones and setting business goals around each build, the dedicated development team can stay productive and focus on the most important parts. This is the essence of an incremental and iterative product development strategy.

10 steps to go live in less than 3 months

1. Focus on your real goal

Identify the goal that a first version of the product should satisfy. Is it a prototype for investors, an MVP for real customers, business process optimization or something else?

2. Reduce the scope

Save 80% of the time by cutting the backlog to the absolute minimum, ideally together with an experienced Product Owner.

3. Choose the right product team

To ensure a smooth cooperation, search for a software development team that has both excellent technical skills and a great understanding of business.

4. Trust the product team

Reduce the decision-making process and speed up the process by giving some of your responsibility to the Product Owners and the developers.

5. Focus on value delivery

For a stable project pace, allow the development team to find a balance between quality, functionality and speed.

6. Make tough decisions fast

Don’t be afraid to make the wrong decision - hesitation can end up costing more than reworking a piece of software.

7. Communicate within and outside the team

To operate effectively and work around shortcomings, the product team needs business context and the business needs a technological understanding.

8. Educate the stakeholders about the development process

Software products rarely have a single Product Owner. To avoid getting side-tracked, make sure that everyone involved is aware of and follows the process.

9. Choose the technological stack wisely

Save months of work by integrating the solution with third party SaaS providers, searching for existing reusable components, and deploying on a stable infrastructure that does not require maintenance.

10. Mitigate technological risk by making business-oriented decisions

Every technical novelty should be rooted in the business goals. Explore new technologies when your business needs them and focus on battle-tested, well-known frameworks to complete the creation.

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