Failing to Ask Appropriate Questions Leads to Problems
Anyone that has been involved with designing, developing, and deploying products knows there are lots of questions the product development team – and the larger organization – need to address in order to achieve success.
Unfortunately, the magnitude of daily “small” questions can crowd out the more important “big” questions teams need to answer, thus leading to drift, frustration, and failure.
I’ve found there are at least ten key questions teams should answer prior to and during the development process. They include:
Is there a market for the product?
Having a “good” idea is insufficient when developing a new product. It’s necessary to determine if there’s an actual need for the product; and not just wishful thinking from the product development team. Failing to secure this understanding has resulted in delivering many failed products to the market over the years.
Who will purchase the product?
Will the person purchasing the product also be the user? If not, does the purchaser know what the user actually needs, wants, and desires? It’s important for teams to get purchasers buy in for the short term, but long-term success requires developing the right product for the user.
What should we charge for the product?
Not knowing how much the intended audience is willing – or able – to spend can result in major complications that impact more than the team. It’s understandable to want to charge a premium for a product that provides significant value. After all, hard work and sacrifice will be experienced during the product development lifecycle and there are people to keep employed. Problems arise when the team planned to sell the product for a given price only to find out later the market would only bear 70 percent of the asking price. This is especially problematic in smaller markets where the ability to scale sales is limited.
Who are the users of the product?
Depending on the type of product, the customer and user may not be synonymous. Thus, it is incumbent on the product development team to deeply understand the problem the product is trying to solve for the user. Doing so increases the likelihood of product success for all involved parties.
Where will the product be used?
Knowing this information will help determine if there are unique requirements for the product that the team originally didn’t identify. If the product can’t be used in the intended environment, then its’ value will be minimal.
What is necessary to successfully use the product?
Is it possible to use the product on its’ own or does it require integration into a larger ecosystem? If the latter, then it’s important for the team to understand all the other products and situations it needs to seamlessly integrate with to be useful.
Can we build the product?
There are times when the team is able to design and deploy the product but are unable to develop based on current staffing. In these instances, there are three possible options to realize success. First, would adding 1 or 2 additional team members sufficiently round out their capabilities? Second, does the team need to partner with another internal team to realize development success? Finally, does the team need to partner with an outside group or company to offload the actual development?
Do we have sufficient time to build the product?
Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed too many instances of a great initial design that resulted in a poorly delivered product. This often is due to rigorous time constraints placed upon the team that didn’t allow for solving feature problems when they arise. Frequently it’s the most promising features that are the hardest to design and development. What is the result? A tendency for the team to throw features overboard in the race to the finish. While a subpar product might get delivered in the short-term, doing so can greatly impact future success of the product in the marketplace.
Did we build the product right?
The team needs to determine if the product, as currently developed, can be used safely and effectively by intended users in the environment where it will be employed. If not, then either the problem(s) need to be fixed or, in a worse-case scenario, the product defects necessitate abandonment.
Did we build the right product?
The team needs to confirm that the currently designed and developed product that’s about to be deployed meets the needs, wants, and desires of the intended users. If not, then product success may not be realized.
Ask the Necessary Questions for Product Success
While this list of 10 questions is by no means exhaustive, they are key questions that, if answered correctly, can contribute to appropriately focusing scarce resources and achieving product realization. Moreover, without concrete answers to these questions, the product development team may be setting themselves up for failure, or at the very least, a very rocky development lifecycle. This isn’t good for team members, the team, the company, or the potential users of the product.