The first mistake in your software project

By Tommi Huovinen, Growth AdvisorDec 20, 2018 • Read time 3 min

Does this sound familiar? A company X has a software product. Over the course of 24 months, the product team worked on a bunch of new and updated features with external consultants and agencies. The project had the right stakeholders within the organisation, all with specific needs for various essential features. The project team worked hard to design and build all those features to satisfy the needs of the stakeholders. At the same time, the business functions generated multiple powerpoints of the future success of the updated offering.

Tommi also wrote a post about how to improve your product.

Finally, the product team succeeded in jumping through all the loops necessary to finish the project. The development budget was close to a million euros covering the design and coding of the product upgrade. The team finished on time and budget.

The launch of the updated product was a success, right? The product became better! All the features were built based on requirements from stakeholders.

Although the product became better, it didn’t help the business become better.

Endgame

In the end, the update didn’t help the company to do more of what they wanted to accomplish. It didn’t help to generate more paying customers. It didn’t help existing customers to become happier nor did it reduce the cost of customer success. Although the product became better, it didn’t help the business become better.

Re-thinking Product Vision

This is a reality in many organisations building software products. The process is universal, and it happens across industries. Lots of time and money is poured in the quest to become better, but all too often this doesn’t translate into tangible business success for the company.

In building better products, it is imperative first to understand what better means. In product development, better product means figuring out what customers need and giving it to them.

In other words, all your product development decisions should revolve around the customer. Not your internal stakeholders. Obsess about making your customers successful and don’t hesitate to say no to anything that will not drive better customer outcome.

Customer is The Center of Your Product Strategy

Once you’ve figured out what is the outcome your customers want to be improved, and you have decided to pursue the opportunity, the next step is to align all the stakeholders to aim for a common shared goal. We like to call the common goal a North Star Metric. North Star Metric is a widely used concept by the most successful product companies, such as Airbnb, Uber and the likes. It helps teams to organise all activities to focus on a common shared goal.

The North Star Metric should be the single metric that best captures the core value that your product delivers to your customers. Optimising all your efforts towards this metric is the key in driving your product strategy into success.

Every time you have a meeting with any of the stakeholders, ask if their requests help you to reach the North Star faster. If so, do they have well-grounded arguments for prioritising their features? Have the potential impacts been validated?

All in all, setting a common shared goal is your first step to execute a successful product strategy.