How to ensure success in digital product delivery: key takeaways from our webinar.

Jack Reinelt, President of the Americas
27 August 2020

The majority of software projects will fail according to a recent survey; 75% of IT and business professionals admit that their projects are either always or usually 'doomed right from the start', and 80% admit they spend at least half their time on the rework. So, what are the key success measures that you need to follow to ensure a successful digital product delivery?

Somo recently hosted a panel discussion to explore the three success measures in digital product delivery. Our webinar, 'How to ensure success in digital product delivery' welcomed our panel of industry professionals who shared effective product delivery tools and techniques in an intriguing discussion led by Ben Magnus - Product Director at Somo.

Panel Speakers

Panel speakers

Here’s what we learned

Product: Leveraging the virtuous cycle of data - How to collect, leverage, and make data-driven decisions when building a digital product.

How do you go about building the right product; where do you start?

The reason why 75% of people think their projects are doomed from the start, is because of this one critical mistake; too many companies are starting at the stage of implementation and not at discovery. - Daniel Cordle, Senior Product Manager at Somo

• Start with understanding your customers and using different discovery techniques like questionnaires, customer interviews, and design sprints.

• Discovery is about empathizing with customers and understanding their ultimate needs and desires. Once you have achieved that, then you move into ideating different solutions, prototyping, and then gathering feedback from the customer.

• Leverage MVP (Minimum Viable Product) implementation by designing a small version of your product, and start implementation after you have defined the boundaries (user interface being the upper boundary and data as the lower boundary). 

• It is essential to give the right amount of research to the discovery phase, and sometimes having to ask the hard questions like: “Is this being done somewhere else, does this already exist out there in the market, if it does exist, then does the product have a gap and how can we fill it?”

How do you ensure that you are effectively conducting user research remotely?

• There are multiple tools that offer moderated and unmoderated sessions and help individuals and organizations connect with their customers.

• By constantly benchmarking and checking with the customers, we can ensure that they are using what has been developed already and get their feedback on possible issues they may have encountered thus far.

How do you balance the customer requirements with the business needs? (which do not always align)

When customer needs are met, it ultimately results in more revenue for the business if built properly, while if we build a business-focused item that was not on top of the customer’s priority list, it likely will result in a low return on investment. - Kim Shyu, Product Manager at Somos Inc.

• You can build your business case through gathering data and setting up Key Performance Indicators that you can use to your advantage. Those kinds of facts and metrics will help you continue a successful path as it allows leadership to easily see your progress, realize the impact you are creating, and consequently decide to continue investing.

• Do not lose sight of competitors when it comes to innovation and new products. Many times, we see that the customer is telling us indirectly what they need because their market share is going down since their competitors have a product or feature that they do not possess.

There is a continuous battle going on between competitors which makes it imperative for us to be researching and revisiting the market trends/needs on a regular basis in order to stay informed and ahead of the curve. - Farooq Ali, Head of Business Agility at Somo

Product slide

People: The importance of Psychological Safety and how to empower product teams to deliver most effectively.

Project Aristotle (research by Google) found that Psychological Safety had the highest importance in team effectiveness. How do you foster Psychological Safety within your team culture?

• Lead by example, and you can illustrate to your team that it is a safe environment. The goal is to eliminate fear from the equation and allow the team to ask questions freely and share their ideas.

• Avoid the blame game because it is so corrosive to the team environment and replace that with curiosity - get to know your team and assist them to be more open.

• The most effective teams are ones that have shown high psychological safety. Being able to speak freely and take risks in front of a group of your peers directly translates into more creativity with designing the product itself.

This concept of Psychological Safety directly corresponds with some of the most impactful ideas that will result in really great products and features. - Daniel Cordle, Senior Product Manager at Somo

• One of the great ways of establishing safety is by having design thinking sessions. By creating something together with your team, you are fostering an open and free environment where there is no 'wrong idea.'

Encouraging the team to be a part of the creation process is what will build the feeling of Psychological Safety. - Kim Shyu, Product Manager at Somos Inc.

How important is culture within an organization and in successfully delivering digital products?

Organizational culture is of extreme importance. You may not be able to change your entire organization, but what you can do is to take an agile approach starting with your own team and scale your way up and across departments. Slowly, yet positively you can influence your entire organization. 

Having hack days and design sprint sessions with stakeholders resulted in tangible outcomes at the end of the day, which was a great way of changing the organizations’ understanding and quickly getting their positive cooperation and acceptance. - Ben Magnus, Product Director at Somo

How do you balance the stakeholder's demands with your team's autonomy and allowing them to function without pressure?

• Autonomy is one of the most important factors that determine success and happiness for people in organizations. You don't want your team to feel micromanaged. Instead, they need to have the freedom to be independent and the capability to create and do their jobs effectively.

• Eliminating dependencies is another important factor - making sure that your team is not facing multiple dependencies that prevent them from doing their job successfully.

• Leadership needs to shift the mindset from controlling the team to allowing them to self-organize and become autonomous, which will naturally motivate them to take ownership of the problems.


Process: Team building & requirements gathering sessions - in an agile world, is that still the right approach?

Standish Group statistics states: “45% of features are never used when a product team takes a serial approach to requirements gathering.” How do you gather requirements, what is the best process?

• The process starts with the customer request, data at hand, and identifying the problem. Gathering enough data from the client is essential and the right way is to have multiple sessions of feedback, questioning those requirements, and validating them. Once an MVP is defined, it is important to constantly re-validate the end goal and constantly test as you go.

• The customer is often not sure what they are looking for or what they need until they see a prototype or an example of the end-product. If the customer is not responding or not providing clear feedback, then using the technique of the five whys will help - keep asking why until you get to the root of the need/problem.

• Take a layered approach to the development of the product. Gather the data and spend time doing research on the market and analyzing competitors, followed by talking to the customers and sending surveys that prompt questions like, 'what are you looking for, what is lacking in your current experience, and what do you love about your experience?'

What process worked for you that you recommend replicating?

• Set your team up for success by having a structured kickstart session, like getting to know team members through games and activities or going through light agile exercises to get a good understanding of what it means to work in a scrum/agile method.

• Creating program increment (PI) planning sessions can have a positive effect on forming good individual teams, and then scaling that effectively across multiple product teams. It also helps us uncover multiple dependencies within other teams; we can then point those out to leadership early on and ask them to remove the blockers, providing a smoother sprint cadence.


Final question: How do we define success?

The legacy we leave is very important. Success is creating a product that a customer will use while advancing the customer and product team in a beneficial way. - Daniel Cordle, Senior Product Manager at Somo

Success is asking ourselves the question: did we achieve the outcome we were aiming for?” - Sophie Ras, Head of Product & Strategy Director at mettrr

I like to ask myself the following questions to define my success: Am I enjoying coming to work every day? Am I feeling like I am making a difference? Did I build a team along the way that loves working together and wants to continue creating together? - Kim Shyu, Product Manager at Somos Inc.

The product is a success if people love it. - Farooq Ali, Head of Business Agility at Somo

If you’re interested in learning more about the topics discussed above or to find out about our upcoming events, or contact us here.

You can watch the full webinar recording below:

We're organizing a series of virtual webinars covering the foundational elements of a Design System. Join us on October 14th at 10am (EDT) | 3pm (BST) for the first one from this exciting three-part series. We'll talk about what design system is, its key benefits, and what's the business value. Sign up here.