Productizing your Technology Innovation
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Many a technology innovator makes the leap of faith to start their journey with that single step that needs to be taken. Knowing that it will not be an easy journey. There will not only be many more steps and miles, but detours, lost ways, forks in the path that you chose wrong, retracing your steps and sometimes not even knowing what your destination is. There will also be the joys of finding good co-travelers, doing interesting work that is out of your comfort zone and collaborating with wonderful partners who will point you in the right direction and help you correct course. And of course, a strong sense of accomplishment when you look back on your travels and see how your technology innovations have been able to transform your business, or even your industry.
But sometimes in this innovation journey we can’t see the forest through the trees and we lose our way. One of the biggest challenges startups as well as enterprises encounter, is mistaking the technical innovation they developed to be a product that will automatically acquire customers and become a successful business. More so if you have set out to build a niche product that will define a new category or business stream and has very little existing references or industry peers and competitors. It’s not surprising that more than a few product startups with exciting innovations under their belt are unable to productize it or scale business. Or enterprises which are trying to innovate in a software-driven and digital world, to stay competitive and ahead of the curve.
So, how do you identify whether the trees you see are really the “forest?” Here are some classic symptoms that you may be struggling to productize your innovation.
Critical Mass of Users: Despite excellent technical demos to prospective users, well-designed campaigns and customer outreach, the product or service fails to build a critical mass of users. You may be struggling to establish a strong business case and are unable to demonstrate a measurable ROI or business benefit that will get users onboard. The product or service could also be hampered by a poor design and user experience, which fails to excite the users.
Weak Market Positioning: If you demonstrate the product or service to friendly prospects or partners and they come up with a variety of problems it can solve that you hadn’t thought of, your market positioning might be either too narrow or worse… you might have developed a product where there is no problem!
Inconsistent Customer Feedback: When you speak with beta-customers and users to get feedback and refine the product, and you find that their input is all over the place and hard to fit into patterns. It is quite likely that you have spread yourself too thin in terms of the target market and different category customers are using the product for different means.
Feature Churn: The engineering team is regularly developing new features, often based on feedback from the sales or support teams, but too many new features are getting discarded after a few releases or being sparingly used by your customers. Feature churn results from weak product strategy and market positioning (leading to getting easily influenced by external feedback), inconsistent development methodology or both.
Excellent technology implementations get everyone excited about being a part of something new. However, unless you have a ‘Product Engineering DNA’ built into your team, the technology innovations may not make the cut as a successful, well-adopted, profit-making product.
Product Engineering Mindset: Technology innovation may get your startup off the ground, but a partner with Product Engineering DNA needs to be brought in to develop a successful, featured-rich product. A partner who offers the rigor needed to plan, implement and deliver successive product releases consistently, minimizing feature churn and improving engineering productivity. A partner who understands go-to-market considerations for your product and offers deep domain expertise along with the engineering chops needed to convert a cutting-edge technology to a well-rounded product.
User Experience and Design Thinking: Donald Norman’s seminal book on Design of Everyday Things made user-centered design mainstream in product development and has influenced generations of software designers as well. Design Thinking principles are being applied to develop creative solutions to business problems, and gaining wide acceptance in software product development. A partner that offers Usability, UX and Design Services that inculcate the best practices of user-centric design will help transform your technology innovation into a product that delivers customer delight!
Flexibility and Pivoting: Focusing purely on innovation can result in making technology choices that paint your product or service into a corner, leaving little flexibility for a pivot or change in direction. Adopting an API-based approach that enables your partners and customers to extend and integrate with your innovation is the best way forward to ensure that your innovation is resilient enough to handle technology stack changes and market disruptions. A development partner, who has implementation experience in a wide variety of platforms, can help productize your innovation with the right mix of technology and ecosystem integration strategies.
Digital Transformation: Disruptive technology innovations are changing business models in a variety of industries. Think Airbnb. Think Netflix, which has been a serial disruptor in media and entertainment, with its multiple pivots over the years. While the standard return-on-investment models for software products may still be applicable in many cases, the ability of a product to alter the way business is done in a particular industry can be a game changer. Enterprises (and their innovation labs) as well as product startups need to have an excellent grasp of the next generation SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) technologies to be able to deliver such innovation. A product development specialist like Persistent Systems, with deep expertise in SMAC technologies, is well-poised to help customers in Digital Transformation initiatives that will open new revenue streams and lead the industry in a new direction.
To quote the American poet Robert Frost:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
We’d love to hear from you about your interesting journey and experiences in launching a new product or service from a technology innovation.