Your Ultimate Guide to Startup Product Development
Table of Contents
Having a great product idea is not enough to launch and commercialize it. To get to the market and find your niche, more efforts are required. While the approaches to product development vary, there are some that have proven themselves effective. According to the polls, in 2018, 91% of respondents claimed that their companies shifted to the agile development process. It makes sense to look into the best advances of this technique. Yet, there is no limitation on how many approaches you can combine, as long as you follow your plan.
So, you have an idea? Where should you start?
New product development by R.Cooper
One of the first approaches introduced was New Product Development by R. Cooper.
Idea generation and screening
It is up to you to decide how to generate ideas for the project. Use brainstorming, reusing old ideas, market research, or whatever works for you. The screening stage differs since it presumes the selection of the feasible ones that can be implemented. Unlike brainstorming where you have no limitations, this stage narrows down the existing options and moves forward with one.
Proof of concept
To validate the idea at the initial stages and check its feasibility, the proof of concept methodology is used. It is all about showing the idea to potential stakeholders, and investors to get their feedback and approval. After this stage, commercialization follows. Proof of concept can answer a couple of questions that will channel the team in the right direction:
- Are investors interested? Do they see the business value of the idea?
- Are there any constraints to moving forward? Is it scalable? Does it allow growth?
- What are the potential challenges for the project to have commercial success?
By addressing these issues in the beginning, the path to smooth launch and commercialization of the product will be laid.
Business viability test
When you have a solid idea you are ready to launch and commercialize, it is worth checking its business viability. Considering the options for such analysis, it might be a never-ending process. So, it is safe to say that your technical feasibility is far more important than analyzing. If a startup has a limited budget which for most is the case, run basic checks of the market, customer needs, competition, and pricing ranges. It will get you rough numbers on the size of your target market.
What does it take to engage and attract customers? Any product they purchase is supposed to be the solution to some pains. Identifying how your product can sort things out for the customer, and have those points formulated is crucial at this stage. User experience and interface should be customer-centered. Most answers to your questions on where to place the button and what features to add will be told by the potential customer. So, when deciding on the UX/UI concept, make sure that you are not mixing a set of cool things that do not bring any results when the customer interacts with the product. A common misconception about this stage is that investing a lot in a nice picture will pay off. Functionality, smooth work, and effectiveness brought by the tech stack you use to have more value for the user.
A minimum viable product is a version of the product that has a sufficient amount of features for the customers to assess and provide feedback. It is a raw version of the product created to get the response from the early adopters and improve the final version. While the development process does not stop at this stage, it must already be functional. For the MVP to serve its purpose, these three aspects must be considered:
- Viable means that the product is useful for the customer to be willing to buy it
- Its end-state should be clear to the customers, so they want to keep using it
- The product should have a reliable feedback loop
It’s vital to understand that MVP is not aimed at earning. Instead, this version serves as training material for the development team. With MVP the company does not have to invest in the production without knowing whether the potential buyers are truly interested. The initial feedback received in the process of development might change the course of action.
The utilization of the product in the early stages of the development process is a more efficient solution than sending a questionnaire about the non-existence thing that customer has no chance to try out. According to the research, in 2021, 35% of startups failed because there was no demand for their products. Some mistakes cause more expenses, and some lead to bankruptcy. For sure, there is usually a set of accumulated issues that kill businesses, and they should be analyzed separately. But it is a fact that investing time and resources in MVP is a good way to strengthen your business potential.
Case: How proof of concept saved 50% of the development expenses
MVP is considered to be a version of the product used for testing its acceptance on the market. However, it can bring more benefits than that. Euristiq worked with the client on a cloud-based platform for storing telematics. The client was an insurance company who planned to use telematics to form insurance packages and optimize expenses. The product development started with the discovery phase after which the client received feature-based cost estimation and the full-cycle development launch was approved. The Euristiq team designed a platform that collects videos from cameras installed in the vehicles and allows multiple users access to the recordings.
What was the challenge?
The client had hardware and an idea of how it is supposed to work. However, to ensure that it has the needed characteristics for the concept to be implemented, the development team ran a PoC test. Without checking that the cameras are capable of performing the desired functions, the client could end up with a lack of connectivity, and correspondingly telematics data.
From the expected tool for telematics, the client got more. It appeared that the platform can be used for more than post-accident analysis, but as a learning material for the drivers. In the process of development, more capabilities of the platform were discovered. The videos of the accidents can be sent to the drivers along with a warning on dangerous behavior. Eventually, the platform became a fleet management and driver behavior monitoring tool.
Test market adoption
At this stage, you already have your MVP in work. The customers are using it, and it is high time to see what features they use, like, or complain about. Feedback at this stage will serve as a guide to the development team. As a business manager, you will get a helicopter view of how the process is going, and how the product is accepted on the market.
MVP serves as a trial version of the product and allows you to make it viable in a long term, assess its scalability, and plan its future. After MVP is tested by the users, the development team can make corrections in the architecture, and customize the development process according to your needs. With valuable insights from all the tests and analyses, you have more confidence that the desired result can be achieved.
One of the most exciting stages for any entrepreneur is the launch. You get to deliver the product to the customer. The best advice is to continuously reassess. Pricing, competition, seasonal demand, and many factors matter and you should still keep your finger on the pulse to respond quickly. The responses may vary, there is never a guarantee that everything will go 100 % well. To make your plan resilient, ensure that you have a qualified development team ready to react as soon as needed.
Commercialization happens when the product enters the market. It needs to be advertised and equipped with technical support, maintenance, and proper distribution channels. At this stage, you need to be ready with the answers to the questions like:
- Where to launch the product?
- Who is your primary buyer?
- What are the conditions on the market?
- What is your operational capacity?
Commercialization is about branding and advertising the solution you created for the customer. It is mostly about marketing, sales, and customer service while the development team is backing you up in case of technical issues.
Prototypes are designed to test the feasibility of the idea from a technical point of view. It is a version of the system its flow, looks, and UI/UX. Based on the prototype, the final version of the product will be developed. For the companies, prototypes illustrate the value, proposition, and quality. For the development team, it gives an understanding of the technical system, its vulnerabilities, and also prospects. Why prototype is important in the development process?
- A prototype is more than a concept. It is an implementation of the idea that gives more insight into how it works, and most importantly what does not work.
- Prototyping saves costs in the long run since many issues are eliminated before the product is launched.
- With the prototype, you can assess the quality from the point of view of the tech stack and customer experience. Judging the quality based on the concept is possible, but not effective. The results might come as a surprise and require a lot of costly changes.
Running a test on an unfinished version is fruitful for all the stakeholders. It reduces the risks of exceeding the budget. A prototype shows functional gaps, hence lowering the number of editing sessions you will have to conduct later. The further you go into the development process, the more costly changes become.
Lean startup process
While these stages are traditional, and often perceived as a bit outdated for digital products, there is another option to use. The Lean Startup process suggested by E.Rise. Although you are not tied to one system, these approaches are flexible, and it is possible to get the best of them and create a customized development process.
It’s hard to say that any process is perfect since businesses have different priorities. However, it is possible to point out the best parts that should be applied to any product be it physical or digital. The lean startup offers a more creative way of arranging the process without a rigid order of stages. The basic principles are “build, measure, and learn”. The research shows that a large percentage of startups fail to succeed due to financial constraints. It seems like the creators of lean startups considered that when designing their product development process. They emphasize agility and continuous learning. One of the greatest issues that this method aims to eliminate is spending endless hours and resources on analyzing. Instead, they offer prototyping a product and rolling it out as MVP as soon as possible. That way, the product is on the market, and it goes through transformations, but with every change, the product becomes more interesting for the customer. Unlike hypothetical analyzing of what the user would think and how they would behave, you can give it to the users and watch them react.
Lean startup process framework contains the following elements:
- Build. Create MVP with a set of functions for the user to see the potential of the product, test it, and give feedback.
- Measure. Make sure to establish omnichannel communication with the customer. Depending on the product you design it can be a survey, poll, analytics of the website traffic, etc.
- Learn. The measured results of MVP give you a clear understanding of what the product should be according to the real customer’s expectations. You get the set of functions you can add, and get rid of, and the basic product you created initially becomes polished and finalized. Now it is ready to launch.
The customized product development process for startups
The abundance of approaches shows that the product development process is agile. You can mix the strategies, invent, and create in a way that works for you. However, not every startup has a vision of how the technical aspect should be built. For that, qualified development teams exist to back you up.
Euristiq’s approach to product development for startups
The main priority for any startup is to get the product to the market faster than the competition without investing too much time and money into it. Understanding that need, we focus our work to achieve the following:
- 20%-30% faster time-to-market
- Fixed budget
- Fixed deadlines
We use multiple tools for achieving the set objectives within the deadlines needed for a particular startup. The crucial stages of product development for us are product discovery and lean requirements workshops that bring us to MVP development faster.
Product discovery: When? What? How?
Whether you decide to write a software requirement specification (SRS), or business requirement specification (BRS), you need to have valid information to put in it. Your vision of the product is vital, but development is impossible without technical specifications. If you start with the project discovery phase, you get to tell the development team all your wishes and vision, and they can judge them from the technical perspective. As a result, you will be able to know what kind of product you can roll out within a limited time, and how much it will cost you.
Lean requirements workshop sessions: What’s on the agenda?
Any documentation across all industries is perceived with grim faces. The desire to move away from the bureaucracy and its main feature a piece of paper is driving entrepreneurs towards the full abandoning of any documents. That is why the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a software specification document is heavy. However, the approach to writing it is agile, just like the process of product development. Lean requirements workshop does not have a fixed structure or protocols that must be followed and remain unchanged. It is a session of discussions where the development team asks all the right questions to recreate the technical side of your idea. For the startup owner, the such workshop does not take writing long descriptions or comprehensive planning. Workshops generate enough ideas and plans for the development team not to spend ages writing a document full of assumptions, and for the client to read it. The framework of the workshop contains the following points which can be shortened or extended according to the client’s needs:
What product development process is best for my startup?
Whichever way you decide to go, remember that most startup development stages are optional. You need to focus on the goals you set for yourself and in the case of a startup, they heavily depend on budget and timing. Bill Gross once suggested the idea that most startups that succeeded were launched at the right time. So, base the process around your deadline, and get rid of extra stages that delay your launch. Pick a reliable tech partner who will not overspend time and resources on planning and analyzing. Launching a startup is an adventure and the Euristiq team is ready to embark on it with you.