How can you go wrong while following the car’s GPS? Or Google Maps for that matter. The technology has existed for years, and billions of people follow directions every day. Yet, there are times it can send you off in the wrong direction.
Amber VanHecke, a 24-year-old student, headed off on a road trip in Arizona’s Grand Canyon, using Google Maps for directions. However, the application led her down a road that didn’t exist. Then she ran out of petrol en route – leaving her stranded in the desert for five whole days.
Before seeing how she escaped that nasty situation, let’s think about a similar situation (though less extreme): a software product development. You could use different navigation systems to get to a successful product.
For a development-focused team, it is very easy to start developing a product by doing what they know best, which means coding. Selecting frameworks, a platform between the desktop and the web, mobile-first or not, and on and on. That’s their GPS, so it cannot go wrong.
A product-focused team tries to work on the customer first and the technology second. As sales and marketing teams, they start by looking at the customer’s needs and problems. They try to understand if:
- there is a need for a solution to the problem
- there is enough business value in a solution
- customers are willing to pay for a solution
The customer is the GPS now. But as both teams head in the same direction, will they both get to the destination? Let’s compare a software-oriented team journey with a product development team.
Product development as an 8 hours workday
Let’s say we could control time and develop the first version of a software product in a single day. How would the two teams spend these 8 hours of hard work? The race to the finish line starts … NOW!
|Time||Software developer||Product developer|
|0-15 min||Selecting frameworks |
|Researching customers, |
|15-30 min||Developing version 1|
More technology choices
|Creating landing pages|
Discussing with prospects
|30-45 min||Publish a website|
Build more technology
Email other developers
Start pre-selling the product
Leads start using a prototype
|45-60 min||Waiting for customers|
Yearning for code changes
First sales to real customers
|1-2 hrs||Working on version 2|
Working on the website
Focus on technology
|More real sales|
Work towards version 1
Focus on customers
|2-4 hrs||Working on updates|
Having some sales
Technology is the answer!
|Updates based on buyers|
Prospect new markets
|4-8 hrs||Some success|
Continue or not?
Success, or failure?
Should we email customers?
|Clearer, measured outcome:|
– Product-market fit or
– Change the focus or
– Close the project
The three main errors software developers do
- Focus on technology-first instead of customers-first
- Start with software development instead of market research
- Continue focusing on technology instead of domain learning
Product teams work on the customers first and the technology second
Understand the customer and the problem, but also build a pilot. Check the business plan, but also look at development costs. Work with sales and marketing to align the roadmap with the business.
We can get lost even by using the best GPS. But first, use the right GPS and enter the right destination. And when getting stuck, reassess the situation and take the necessary measures.
While stuck in the desert, Amber VanHecke tried to stop cars passing by, spared as much water as she could, and survived on rations. She gathered rocks to create huge “SOS” and “HELP” messages. Finally, after walking for miles, she picked up enough mobile signal to call 911 and got saved by an air ambulance.
If you are stuck in Technology Land, search for help and start focusing on a product strategy.