5 Things I Learnt While Working on a Digital Product

Fresh out of college, I didn’t know what my niche could be or what I had to do in my professional life. Raw talent accounts for nothing if you aren’t really focused on what you could really adopt as your career track. It was anything and everything for me an year back. But, in retrospect, I think I made a great choice of working in a startup and helping the organisation build a product from scratch. It helped me understand the new dynamics of working in a rapidly changing technology world, which forms the bedrock of all the proliferating businesses in the future.

We all learn new things, tweak something, innovate and create. Be it as small as it could be. As long as it adds value, I think it is worth-mentioning. Well, even I had my fair share of learning in the first year of my working life and those are enumerated below. I packed a whole chunk of product knowledge in a matter of months. Excruciating as it was, it was humbling too.

1. It’s always about the team vision

Indeed it is. I am generally full of ideas on how to improve a specific business process in say, XYZ industry. Here, XYZ for me generally is the AdTech industry. But that’s besides the point. If the vision behind the product is faulty, prepare to die. The product team shall imbibe the vision as a pre-requisite to whatever work they undertake related to the product. The product vision is the guiding light for the product and everything flows from there. It shall be as lucid as possible and moreover, communicated as clearly as possible. No vision, no fun. No fun, no success.

2. Technology is the means, not the end in itself

Yes, we get it that you deploy Machine Learning and other analytical methods to solve critical business problems. I just don’t care about what you use till the time it’s just the means to achieve an end. Technology undergoes such rapid changes every year that it’s difficult to keep up with the most happening, the most trending and the most efficient ones at all times. All I know is that technology is like water, it takes the shape of the vessel (industry) it is in. The end is always customer satisfaction. Satisfaction builds a lot of trust.

3. Make money for your direct users

Suppose that your product is sold on a monthly subscription model where you charge $100/month for the product usage. If your product isn’t helping your users generate $110/month, just throw away the product or work on improving the value that the product offers. Work around the end-users’ personal and professional needs. Those $10 adds up in incalculable ways and retains your customers, better if it’s compounded every month. Your product becomes indestructible. This is how your product will succeed by constantly augmenting the growth of your users’ businesses. I took this example from James Altucher’s book. Link

I will shut down the product if it generates less than 80% of the value for the users with respect to the subscription costs for 3–4 months consecutively. Makes no sense to work on negative value stuff.

4. Talent is over-rated, the right team is more important

People generally feel offended when I say that talent is over-rated. You can have the best programmers, data scientists, product managers and marketers to work on a product and it can fail. Fail like really fail, that too FLAT on the face. It has happened before and will happen unless people stop relying on their perceived talent which is based on their faulty understanding of their and others’ DNA. Keeping all these genetic elements aside, a team working on the product shall keep working on evolving the product, think about better ways to deliver value to the end-user and help in understanding how the product solves real-world problems in the present scenario. If you fail to do this, wait for 3–4 months to become irrelevant where some other people will snatch away your customers and erode your market share no matter how awesome your product is. The team shall take the product as a living organism that needs a few resources as continuous fodder for its own growth. Right team has the right mindset the takes the product to a whole new level. I am not pro hire-the-best-minds when it comes to teams. Nobody should have that attitude. Find the talent that shares your vision, not that who buys it. Team-building 101 right there.

5. Release fast, iterate faster

It’s funny to realise that a product launch gets delayed because some this-that cool feature doesn’t get implemented on time, thus delaying the release. Why not just focus on 20% of the features that deliver 80% of the values? Everything besides that are just simple UI changes, some cosmetic stuff that enhances the user experience and engagement but doesn’t increase a single percent in value. Focussing on critical use-cases and implementing the features that deliver maximum value is what I call Product 101. Drive the process improvements faster, implement them within the what I call T-F/A i.e. Time-Frame of Acceptance and experience the magic.

Well, well. It ends here.

I am almost always full of business ideas (not on Saturdays) and new insights on product development, the budding digital scenario, entrepreneurship and cognitive/development psychology. Follow me on Twitter or drop me an invite on LinkedIn, would be great to connect.