How to Build the Right Software Product
Software product development is expensive and time consuming. Companies can’t afford to spend time and money building the wrong product. Yet hundreds of products are built each year that are rarely used. So how do companies improve their chances of building the right product?
Whether a product is for internal use or sold externally, software development is expensive and time consuming. Yet, 80 percent of all software features (Thomas, 2019) are rarely (if ever) used, and 75 percent of all apps users download to their mobile phones are used once and then never again (Blair, 2020).
So how do companies improve their chances of building a product that end users want to use? In short, how can they build the right product? It starts by answering the following three questions correctly:
- Have you identified the right problem?
- Are you solving that problem with the right solution?
- And are you building the solution with the right implementation?
The right problem
The first step in building the right product is ensuring you are solving the right problem for your end users. This requires taking time to understand the situation and make sure you’ve found the root cause.
It is important to point out here that problems are not always pain points or issues that your end users actively recognize. These provide opportunities for your product to create new benefits for your end users.
There are techniques you can use when trying to identify the right problem:
- perform a root cause analysis to help separate symptoms from the actual problem;
- conduct business process mapping to identify bottlenecks, pain points and workarounds; and
- create a journey map to understand the end user or user experience and where they may be experiencing problems.
These techniques can also be combined to give a more holistic view of your end user. Whatever technique you chose, you’ll want to validate that you have found the true problem before moving on to the next step.
The right solution
Once you’ve identified the right problem, you need to ensure you find the right solution. This will require not only greater understanding of your end users’ needs and constraints but also some outside-the-box thinking.
You’ll want to have a thorough understanding of the environment in which your end user will be using the product. What challenges will they need to overcome? What limitations may they have?
In addition to that, you’ll want to look for novel ways in which to solve their problem. This doesn’t necessarily mean complex ways. Often the simplest solutions are the best.
Several techniques you can use to help find potential viable solutions are:
- conduct in person observations to better understand how your solution would be used;
- perform large group brainstorming to spur idea generation;
- practice design thinking to focus the solutions proposed on the end users; and
- create mind maps to organize ideas and narrow down possible solutions.
Once you’ve identified a likely solution, you’ll want to verify (using prototypes, A/B testing or similar methods) that the identified solution solves the problem in the best way for both the end users and your business before moving to the next step.
The right implementation
Lastly, having identified the right solution, it is important to make sure you have the right implementation of the solution. This involves prioritizing the work to maximize the value delivered to the end user as quickly as possible, resisting the urge to add unnecessary functionality or making the solution unnecessarily complicated (i.e. gold-plating) and being prepared to adjust the solution based on feedback from the end user.
Using agile principles and lean techniques to deliver your product is one way to accomplish this. By delivering simple solutions with quick, incremental changes to your end users, you can get timely feedback to educate your prioritization and ensure that you are delivering the right product to solve your end users’ needs.
Avoiding the wrongs
To build the right product, you need to ensure you have identified the right problem to solve, the right solution to address the problem and the right implementation of that solution. Cutting corners on any one of these can lead to building the wrong product.
Spending a little more time upfront and on each step will greatly increase your chances of building the right product, ultimately saving time, money and reputation.
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Blair, Ian. “Mobile App Download and Usage Statistics (2019).” BuildFire, 21 Mar. 2020, buildfire.com/app-statistics/.
Thomas, Suja. “2019 Feature Adoption Report.” Https://Www.pendo.io/, 2019, go.pendo.io/content-download.html?WP=fareport&sf_campaign=WP_FeatureAdoptionReport_2019&utm_lp=fareport.