Regardless if a company is developing a product or looking to jump the bandwagon of product-centric steerage, the benefits of being truly product-oriented are far-ranging. What’s more, it is known to affect every part of an organization, not just product development. And what are the payoffs of this all-encompassing focus on the product?

Well, for starters, you build better products that fit your customers to a tee. You focus on what matters to customers instead of wandering off in generic efforts. Moreover, a product mindset links well with a digital transformation and helps to shape change-supportive company culture. Something quite crucial in meeting consumer demands and adopting new, game-changing technologies. 

The majority of organizations surveyed by a Harvard Business Review claim that a product-first approach improves a customer experience, spurs profitability, and betters teamwork in a rapid-paced development. Another essential reason why teams are subscribing to a productized strategy is that they want to stay apt to keep pace with change. Hence 81% of Pulse Survey respondents agreeing a product-first operating model provides each team with autonomy without sacrificing visibility into their work. Autonomy without silos. In case you’ve been around any IT work environment lately you know how paramount this is.

Ergo, the question is, how can teams align to build products people love? Furthermore, how can they do so lucratively and without escalating team conflicts? In the following words, we’ll offer 4 tips to help you optimize your product development for success.

#1 Product ↔️ IT Combo to Lead the Way

In the present day and age, a dissatisfied customer will switch to your competitors in a heartbeat. They can discontinue subscriptions, terminate licensing agreements, and jump ships at a click of a button. In light of this, organizations must proactively harness data to gain an understanding of customer behavior. This data serves as a crucial insight into steering product growth, heightening conversion rates, and mitigating customer attrition.

As the digital landscape continues to expand, businesses must prioritize digital customer experiences. A pivotal shift has occurred: customers no longer distinguish between digital and offline contentment with your brand. Hence the rise of omnichannel customer experience. This transformation was catalyzed by the pandemic, which accelerated the trend rather than initiating it.

To amplify the delivery of products accompanied by exceptional user experiences, many companies find success when both product and IT teams adopt a customer-centric orientation. More precisely, when they take direct responsibility for product success. 

The primary responsibility for executing product experience initiatives often falls to IT teams (45%) and product-experience-focused teams (38%), as evidenced by a Pulse Survey. IT teams possess the practical knowledge of “how”. Meanwhile, product teams and customer-oriented CTOs or CIOs are equipped with insights into “why” and “what”. This dynamic enforces them to lead the charge in the success journey, a sentiment echoed by Rich Mironov, President of Mironov Consulting, who asserts that enterprises embodying these attributes top the charts in terms of success.

#2 Design Data Products

A team in a modern office brainstorming data product ideas with papers spread on the table

With so much buzz surrounding the AI use in companies, all of us are prone to detour from other tried-and-true practices. In fact, methods that bring some companies great fortunes for the most part go unnoticed. One such practice that may have slipped through the cracks for some is the concept of Data Product. 

As defined by DJ Patil, a first Chief Data Scientist of the USA, in his book, data product is a product that facilitates an end goal through the use of data. Meaning, any product or application, internal or with a profit imperative, that uses data to provide insight is considered a Data Product. For example, an internal KPI dashboard and personalized product recommendations on modern e-commerce website are both Data Products. 

Needless to say, data products can be a powerful tool. At Vista, a company specializing in marketing and design services, data products have contributed $90 million to profits, with a significant portion recurring on a yearly basis. Similarly, at Regions Bank headquartered in Alabama, Manav Misra, Chief Data and Analytics Officer emphasizes that data products have led to savings and earnings amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars for the bank. 

In the case of Net Group’s own project, Statistics Estonia’s data dashboards, data products have allowed businesses to personalize the view they’re specifically interested in. They simply pick and choose the data they want to see, e.g. salaries in the commerce sector, and instantly they get visual charts instead of rows and columns. As a result, a user-friendly dashboard is now helping both public and private sector to bridge the gap in sharing crucial state-level information. Moreover, for local businesses, it has streamlined the way of finding and instantly understanding the localized data at hand and making decisions. 

To start to adopt them, and reap benefits just like these digital-native companies, implementation should be initiated and supervised from a technical perspective. The roles easily filled by Chief Executive Officers or, in lack of, by CTO as a service where an external company takes solidifies the trajectory of digital transformation. This way legacy companies that don’t have high-level tech expertise at their disposal or simply miss the resources to have one can find success employing the data products. 

For the proprietor of data product design, their role is to make sure to create models that fit the existing data. They also need to:

  • Address the level of legacy systems
  • Assess existing datasets 
  • Pinpoint opportunities based on existing data
  • Communicate and delegate tasks to responsible teams
  • Make sure data products are aligned with operational and business objectives

#3 Obtain a Wealth of Data About Real-World Behavior

If you saw a group of people walking barefoot you would assume they needed the shoes, right? Neatly cushioned, soft, and comfy – just the way everyone likes it. But if you found out they were actually strolling barefoot on purpose, would you still make cushy shoes?

Yes, it’s an irritatingly simple reference. However, we can’t shrug off the impression that too many companies get carried away building and forget to ask this simple question. Is this something our target customers would really buy? Worse yet, many teams have their customers in mind but use research methods that make little to no sense in real-life scenarios.

Data About Real World Behavior

To be exact, conventional research methods tend to have too many shortcomings. Although good to an extent, they fail to answer whether a focus group or an interviewee would really click to buy in real life scenario. Therefore, to validate demand for the product it’s best to tie the shoelaces and actually test the market terrain before you even have a full-blown product. 

Fortunately, ad platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Google stand as a portal to millions of customer segments. You can test different consumer groups for multiple product variants, sales messages, call to actions, pricing, and many other campaign and product factors. What’s best, when testing with third-party platforms companies don’t need to worry about supply chain modifications and its level of integration. It’s best to use these platforms for two following purposes:

  • Product demand validation. Before launching a product you can test murky waters by probing customers with upcoming product launches. For example, in day and age where privacy is of utmost importance, sharing email or phone data is the currency. Social media is another example where you can gain great insights that tell you of user’s level of interest in your product. Therefore, collecting the data prior to the product launch will serve as a reality check of whether certain customer segments are even interested in the offer.
  • Testing new audience. Upon the product launch marketing and product teams can test new market positioning without too much cost. There’s friction involved in testing the core audience, so try to reach beyond and see if new approaches hold water.

Another way of testing, especially if you’re already head-deep in the market is through usage analytics. If you’re matching the tempo, data is probably instilled into every segment of your product and processes. If not there’s great potential, especially with the rise in IoT devices (from 800 million to 15,14 billion in less than 15 years). With R&D costs rising globally to 2 billion, an importance of which Net Group’s founder Priit Kongo openly speaks about in his ongoing talks, the case becomes evident. Collecting user data is crucial for product feedback cycles.

#4 Integrate Cyber Security Into Product Design

Cyber Security

Planning for a new business or production facility involves serious security measures. From mapping out site landscape, fences, and gates to considering risks involved with a location, integrating surveillance into information modeling, etc. Needless to say, planning site security is a serious business for a reason.

However, when companies build products, cybersecurity is usually put on a back-burner. A phenomenon very telling of our collective tendencies to procrastinate. To inflate the irony, there are a million more ways to suffer from cyberattacks compared to physical robbery or embezzlement. Worse yet, the consequences of cyber breach tend to be substantially worse.

All of this leads many cybersecurity professionals to feel the burden, FOMO, and stress attached to a role in due course

So, a reasonable question arises. What if an appropriate degree of cybersecurity was built into the initial product design? Well, contrary to what many believe, it could be a lot less costly down the line and could even aid fast-growing companies in agility. As long as companies are not attempting to reduce risks to zero and are targeting the topmost vulnerabilities, it could be complementary to the product resilience and profitability.

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