My Product Development Path, Part I
With the large amount of information available to us these days, there is essentially an infinite number of paths you can take toward achieving a goal for yourself.
The same is true when it comes to developing a new product. There are countless strategies, tactics, techniques and tips you can follow.
In this topic, I share my starting point for the approach that I am going to take toward my own goal of developing a new product and establishing a product-based business.
Overcoming the Paradox of Choice
Have you ever gone to a café or restaurant and been so caught up in reading the menu that you don't know what to order. My wife Kristin experiences this all the time.
The same type of issue occurs for me when I'm working on something that is new to me. When it comes to starting a product, there is an endless supply of material and guidance from resources such as books, websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, courses, teachers, colleagues, family, friends, consultants, coaches, etc.
Some information will be relatively more useful than others but it is probably impossible to know for certain what is the best approach to take for one's own situation. There are merely varying degrees of 'good' and 'not so good'.
Given this, there is definitely a need to make decisions at points along the way about what resources I am going to use. At various times, I will need to make a call and go with it.
I'll know along the way what is working, and what isn't working, for my own situation and I will be able to continuously refine as I go
Start With a Mindset of Improvement
I'm basically running one giant experiment here based on assumptions.
The goal is to gradually increase the level of confidence for this product being successful by validating assumptions based on evidence.
As I go, I will occasionally pause along the way to check in, review my results and see if there is anything I can improve on.
By recording my progress in my podcast, I will also be keeping a kind-of journal to reflect on how I'm feeling and what I'm experiencing along the way.
Manage the Project
In my day-to-day consulting life, managing tech projects is my bread and butter.
Suffice to say, I'll be managing my own transition into the business products as a project in its own right. This will include doing things such as:
- Deciding what benefits and target outcomes, i.e. goals, I'm looking to achieve with this first project;
- Based on those goals, setting the scope for what I'll be working on;
- Looking for opportunities to outsource work, based on my available budget;
- Breaking down the work from an initial set of deliverables into work packages and tasks
- Prioritising and tracking the work using a simple task management tool like Trello
- Capturing the ideas I come up with, the information I gather and the details I produce along the way using some sort of knowledge management tool, such as Evernote.
Work With Other People
I am definitely going to look for opportunities to talk to and learn from others that have experience launching their own products. I will aim to connect with technical specialists and subject matter experts who can provide insights and alternative points of view.
Generate the Idea
Ok, this is where it begins. I have a general idea at the moment of what I think I would like to produce. But before I rush into it, I think I should pause and look into the underlying foundations a little more deliberately.
Some questions I am considering are:
- What is the problem/need?
- What would a solution look like?
- Who would the customers be for the product?
- Why would someone buy this product? What are the benefits? What is the value?
Start Checking Assumptions Early
Next up, I plan on trying to reduce the uncertainty as quickly as possible. Early product validation is one of the most commonly suggested activities among most of the guidance available today.
Here are the steps I am taking initially to check my assumptions:
- Find people to interview
- Check if there is a match between what I think and what people say about the problem/need and possible solutions.
- Start refining my solution
- What could a minimum initial version look like?
- What parts / how much of the solution would I be capable of producing myself initially? Does it sound achievable?
- Do I know where I might start?
Get Started on the Product
While I don't necessarily want to race out and focus all my available time and attention on engineering, I do need to make a gradual start on something.
For my product, here is how I will start:
- Establish a workspace, a.k.a development environment. In other words, get the workshop ready, bring the necessary tools and platforms together that will enable me to start working.
- Sketch up some high-level ideas and designs for the initial version.
- Start creating a basic working version of the product, with a very limited, almost embryonic, set of features. Something that could be used to simply show potential customers and then eventually be gradually built on.
Don't Forget the Marketing
A common issue with product development is leaving the marketing to later. If you're more of an engineer/creator-type person that loves making things, then it is very easy to get caught up in the build at the expense of marketing. Remember, once you have a product, it needs to be marketed in order to sell it. Leave it too late and you'll be launching your product to crickets.
I'll be heeding the advice of successful product business entrepreneurs by starting work on the marketing in parallel. My initial steps include:
Draft the initial version of a [very lightweight] marketing plan
Create a list of the first set of marketing jobs to be done, and prioritise them
Work on the top two or three marketing jobs from the list
Scan some resources on the topic of marketing a tech product. For example:
I've Got No Idea if This Will Work, And I Love That
I'm absolutely loving this right now. To me, the uncertainty that comes with developing a new product is a bit exciting. Don't get me wrong, I am well aware that the odds are stacked against me and that I likely have a very long and bumpy journey ahead of me. However, that's what makes it interesting.
I'm not planning on quitting my day job right now, although I do hope to be able to one day. I'm treating this as a challenge and an opportunity. I'd like to see if I can produce something ,with my available spare time, that makes other peoples lives better and more enjoyable.
That's it for now, I don't want to plan the entire journey out too far ahead. What I have here is enough to keep me busy over the coming weeks.
I'll start getting into and then I'll check back in shortly see how I'm going. As I go, I also plan on going into more detail some of the steps here as entire topics on their own. There is plenty we can learn about together here.