10 tips for success in digital product delivery. Part 2: Product.

Daniel Cordle, Senior Product Manager in Charleston, SC
11 August 2020

This is the second blog article of our three-part series exploring key pillars of success in digital product delivery. Part one focused on people and what teams need to be successful. Here we focus on products. What areas of the product should you focus on, and when? What are some common pitfalls you can avoid? How can you structure your implementation to create a product that customers will love? Let’s dive right in.

#1: Start at the boundaries.

One of the most challenging aspects of product delivery is figuring out where to start. The number of technical, business and design factors to consider can be overwhelming, and it can be easy to fall into ‘analysis paralysis’ or pursue the wrong path.

In scenarios like these, it’s important to remember the basics. At its essence, software development is about moving and transforming data (back-end development) and presenting the data (front-end development). While simplistic, that helps us understand the fundamental aspects of any software product: the data (the lower boundary) and the user interface (the upper boundary). Once you have these in place, the engineers can create an architecture that moves the data from a repository to a front-end API, and then to a user interface.

How do you get started on the user interface (upper boundary)? Design sprints are a great starting point. Bring together the Product Owner, business stakeholders, UX/UI Designer(s), Technical Lead and/or developers, and spend a few days sketching out use cases and potential design ideas. Be sure to start with a long-term design and then scale down to an achievable short-term solution. While starting small may take less time initially, there is a high risk of designing yourself into a corner and having to immediately redesign after MVP implementation.

To get started on the data (lower boundary), ask yourself the following:

  • What data is needed to power my product?

  • Is that data already available or will I need to create and store it?

  • If the data is not already available, where will it be stored?

  • If the data is already available, is it readily accessible?

If you cannot answer all of these questions, take some time to find the answers. Bring together the Product Owner, business stakeholders, and Technical Lead and/or developers to hold a data workshop. The workshop should seek to answer all of these questions and provide engineers with the information needed to move forward with the technical architecture.

Once the upper and lower boundaries are in place, the developers on the team will be well equipped to fill in the middle ground.

#2: Consider the consequences of content.

Content is undoubtedly an important component of any digital product. The message your product conveys through text, pictures, audio, and videos is as important as the data and user interface. But, when designing the user experience, product teams sometimes overlook the impact of content on costs, team resources, and product performance. 

Product leadership needs to balance the desire for more and better content with the reality that time, money, and bandwidth are not unlimited resources. When evaluating a proposed design, spend some time asking the following questions to fully understand the impact of content in the design:

  • Do you have the time and money to create the necessary content? 

  • Who is responsible for producing and authoring the content?

  • How often do you anticipate the content will need to change to be relevant to users?

  • How much bandwidth will your content require? Is that amount acceptable for product performance and mobile data usage?

These are great questions to ask any time design decisions are being made, and especially during design sprints. If the content planned is bandwidth-intensive, expensive to create, or would require frequent updates, ensure you have made that choice intentionally and for good reason.

#3: Take swift action on your data

There will be many people who will have opinions about your product and what it should and shouldn’t do. While those opinions can be valuable, there is no replacement for the knowledge gleaned from high quality data. Data is paramount to understanding customer needs and creating products customers love.

Put data at the heart of your product and use it to influence your product roadmap. At Somo, our philosophy is that quality data combined with accurate analysis leads to valuable insights, and those insights must lead to quick and meaningful actions. The more actions you take based on your data, the more valuable your product becomes. The more valuable your product becomes, the more data you can collect. And the more data you collect, the more insights you gain and actions you can take. This is known as the virtuous cycle of data. Taking action on your data is a great way to kick off this cycle.

Be sure your approach to product delivery allows you to quickly take action on insights with minimal pain. Somo uses an Agile framework to quickly pivot when new insights are gleaned. By using this iterative approach to development, we ensure that the products we build can quickly adapt to changing customer needs and behaviors.

Data, content, and user interface are critical components of a product. By focusing the team’s time and energy on the right components at the right time, you’re well-positioned to create a product that customers love.

Coming up next is our third and final post in our series, which will explore the process behind digital product delivery and how to position your implementation for success.