Product development is a multidisciplinary endeavour. Design, engineering and marketing perspectives must be incorporated into the process neatly. Since these perspectives have tradeofs, they frequently contradict. That is why, a balance must be met between these contradicting views. And that is generally the entrepreneur’s responsibility to find the perfect fit.
I would like to list common mistakes in product development which I either observed or experienced personally during new product development.
Trying to create a product that is superior in terms of “features” is a common mistake. Instead, “simplicity” should be the goal. Each new feature increases the complexity and adds marginal benefits. So when you have a good idea (a new feature to add), hesitation should be the first response rather than adopting the idea quickly. In order to avoid this miskate the appropriate question is: “is it worth adding this feature, which will sacrifice simplicity?”
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry accurately highlights this fact: ”Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away“.
- Pareto principle is also applicable (80% of results are produced by 20% of actions/causes). It is important to find these 20% features and discard the remaining ones.
- Steve Jobs’ determination on putting a “one button” for iPhone is a good example.
As opposed to common assumption, consumers are not rational when they are involved in a “buy” decision. Rather then finding all the alternatives and decide according the predefined criteria, they satisfice (Herbert Simon), meaning that they select the option that is both satisfactory and sufficient.
Consumers decide which product to buy mostly according to their emotions. So when designing a product, cost-benefit analysis should not be the top priority. Instead, creating a value proposition, concern on esthetics, consideration of the psychology of the consumers and creating a rich user experience should be considered. Most successful designers care their target segments’ feelings (i.e. how do they feel when they buy or use the product? Does the product differentiate their status among their friends and etc).
Responsibilities of marketing professionals should not begin when the product is ready to be launched. Instead marketing people should be involved in the process from the beginning.
New product development is not solely business analysts, engineers or designers responsibility. For example, in a banking industry, when a new software application is considered, the common procedure is that marketing or business development department wants a new product (i.e application). Business analysts specifiy the requirements. Business analysts role lie in between the marketing and engineering departments. Then programmers/engineers code the application, and then they are being promoted by the marketing department.
I insist that the above procedure is fragmented and is not customer oriented. It begins from a customer need (from a marketing perspective), continues with an engineering mindset and then ends with a product that is somehow satisfactory. But in order to meet and surpass customer needs and expectations, customer perspective should always remain throughout the whole procedure.
This mistake prevails especially in big companies and is not common in startups because their concentration is on the single product which the success of the whole company depends on the product and entrepreneur involves in the whole process and be the voice of the customer trying to create value through simplicity and user friendly designs.