It isn’t undeniable that transparency is becoming increasingly consistent in the tech world. Over the last few years, a lot of organizations have introduced transparency into their business strategy for the public to see. Andy Cook (the Founder & CEO of Tettra) has started posting Tettra’s numbers almost every month on Social Media and other channels.
On one level transparency and inclusivity in the design/development process can turn into a ‘design by committee’, potentially paralyzing all the development in the effort to satisfy numerous or a single type of need. This is why many companies deny making this entire process transparent and practice the ‘take it or leave it’ approach. Apple and Facebook technically come to mind who practices such an approach. The one advantage of keeping this phase opaque is that customers remain more likely to adopt the product late in its lifetime, instead of postponing their purchase to the next generation product to wait for better features. In NDA-heavy industries, the same opaqueness in the product roadmap is necessary to gain that competitive edge and the market’s first advantage.
Transparency, on the other hand, can be extremely valuable, as it creates a sense of endearment for the clients that their ideas and feedback are being heard. This also increases the company’s stability and predictably within its customers’ purchase habits. It is kind of a way for the company to gauge the consumer reception of the product without actually committing to build anything yet. Prototypes and concepts have been one of the practices that are currently a common method to create hype and gauging potential adoption, especially industries with heavy investments in resources to bring a product into the market, for example, the automobile industry.
Transparency empowers Teams
Transparency often acts as a vision for the members in the team to follow and by reducing hearsay, confusion, and complexity. Team members feel empowered when they are ‘in-the-know’ or are kept in the loop and appreciate it as it gives them a sense of ownership, leading to elevated morale that reflects in the development roadmap. But this must also be balanced with the enterprise’s customers to the level that they fairly feel that their concerns are heard and prioritized. The level of transparency a company decides to reveal ultimately depends on its business goals and the kind of product the company is into building.
Collaborating Transparency, Gradually
It is often difficult to renege on the level of transparency once it has been established. Roadmaps are constantly evolving, and customers might feel detracted if the company promised them something and later deprioritized. Thereby, it is best to incrementally increase product development transparency to the clients to gauge the level of appropriateness for the best interests of both.
Product Roadmaps are a huge asset for any SaaS company and these are the single source information for everyone involved in product planning. So some best practices for product roadmap are:
- Organize development work within the organization
- Keep stakeholders informed and excited
- Help other departments sync up and offer their perspective on product plans
Before the development, comes the roadmap and a few of the most important best practices here is the founding stone to a successful product:
Keep it Updated
The cadence of updating your product depends on the stage your company and product are in. In the early stage, it is imperative to review regularly even if the product team is not currently working on it. And secondly make sure all action items discussed in meetings are immediately added after, making a clear practice to update the roadmap regularly.
Make Ownership Clear
With internal product roadmaps, it is extremely important to make it clear who is in charge of any given team. This way, if an issue emerges, it is clear whom to reach out to. Plus clear and visible ownership in the roadmap will make the people directly responsible and directly more aware, involved and product about it. Make sure the following scenario NEVER happens:
Project Manager: I will never be able to finish my project on time
Boss: You need to take OWNERSHIP
Project manager: Can I at least hire more Programmers?
Project Manager: Can I reduce the number of features…
Project Manager: So, I am just taking the ownership of failure, is it?
Boss: Don’t be greedy.
Divide ownership so that the end product doesn’t fail and the age-old blame game surfaces.
Now let us come to some Best Practices for a Successful Product Development-
The process must be customer focused
By focusing on the customer, the best-in-class innovators develop and launch new products that offer nothing less than a unique experience to their customers, thereby giving them a better value for their money. This gives you a better edge than your competitors.
How can this be done? By having an in-depth insight and profound knowledge about the customer’s needs, including their unmet and unarticulated needs. Be it from Consumer Behavior or market research, they nail the product requirements. So, ultimately, your customer plays an integral role in the development process- scoping from product design to validation.
Front-End Loaded Process
Best-in-class innovators front-load their product development by reducing their concept of tech risk, concept marketing risk, and creating a draft of a financial plan to reduce any reworks thereby adhering to consistent financial discipline.
Constantly Check and Adjust to Consumer Needs
So, you have identified a problem and you are creating a solution. That must be enough, right? Actually, not so! It is essential to ensure the product in question solves the identified problem in a way that consumers want.
The Product Team must be a Cross-Functional Team-Based Endeavour
It is a best practice to assign members from across the business to the product innovation team. Teamwork is the catalyst for innovation, in addition to a deep and profound understanding of the customers and maintaining the transparency we keep talking about.
Lastly, it is extremely important to have Product Managers who value transparency and prioritize trust. People underestimate the importance of getting along and being able to trust them. This doesn’t mean that you can’t disagree or have a different approach; it simply means that you have established trust and open communication. These two elements are mandatory to stay agile and quickly adapting to industry trends. Opening up about bottlenecks creates a trust that leads to better teamwork and ultimately a seamless and transparent product development process.