By Alex Tkatch, BitTitan
Designing and launching a new product is no easy feat. There’s a lot to consider as you prepare to introduce something new to the market, especially if you already have established products and loyal customers. Launching new products into existing markets, though, requires an additional layer of forethought.
With all that goes into product innovation and development, it’s tempting to rely on the existing infrastructure, development process, and codebase from previous products. After all, why not reuse the methods that performed well? However, simply retracing your footsteps could hinder product development in unexpected ways, leading to a dead-end within an existing market.
When introducing a new product, you need to address a few key considerations. Let’s take a deeper look at the questions you should ask, as well as best practices for launching your new product.
Consider Your Customer Profile
First and foremost, you need a solid understanding of your market fit and customer profile. Ask yourself, “Who is the customer?” and “How does this product fit into the current market?” Is this a product for your current customers – or should it target entirely new customers? Your product may be suited for a different market segment and therefore will require an understanding of new customers.
Consider Microsoft Word and Excel. Though these are different products, both have significant customer overlap. The marketing for both, then, is very similar. By contrast, Microsoft Word and Xbox are clearly intended for two distinct customer profiles. Thus, you must market each of these products much differently to attract the right consumers.
Once you know who your customer is, you’ll want to distinguish your product in the market. This means clearly differentiating your product in terms of its capabilities and the customer pain points it addresses. Creating differentiation for your target audiences will help you reach the right buyers.
Tailor Process To New Product Needs
When developing something new, there are many reasons why it’s tempting to follow the existing approaches from prior product development efforts. Doing so is much less daunting, and it can help you speed through the early development stages. Yet building a new product from the ground up gives you a chance to unlock innovation, and the breadth of new technologies can help accelerate product development.
The knowledge and experience you’ve gained from launching previous products can inform the process for how to develop new ones. It’s still best not to rinse and repeat. Reusing existing methods can limit innovation and overlook what your new product truly needs to be successful. Each new offering should have its own development process specifically tailored to those needs. While tying new products to an existing product’s schedule can sometimes help your development timeline, it also can interfere with your progress. In the pursuit of innovation, each product should evolve at its own pace.
Being able to quickly iterate on your initial concept accelerates your product’s evolution. At BitTitan, we found the Kanban method – a popular system for change management and continuous improvements in the organization – immensely useful. It helped our developers reduce the iteration time for our new IT automation solution, Voleer, to one week without overwhelming the development team. With the Kanban method, the team was able to focus on quality, reduce the amount of work in progress, and achieve frequent delivery.
A dedicated engineering team is also crucial to developing new products. Such a team is free to work on the product full-time without outside distraction or having to manage conflicting project deadlines. Similarly, empowering the team to own decision making can move things along much faster. Team members don’t always need to wait for approval from a product owner. There’s no lag while the team waits for decisions to move the project forward. If something needs to change later, the team will likely have better information by then for a quick fix.
There are many critical elements to consider as you develop new products. While it’s easy to rely on processes that worked in the past, don’t fall into this trap. Each new product requires its own process for it to truly be distinct, innovative, and successful.
Understand who your customer is, develop an appropriate timeline for each new product, and allow dedicated teamwork and rapid iteration to occur. Doing so will move your product along faster and enable greater success in the long run.
About The Author
Alex Tkatch is Senior Director of Software Engineering at BitTitan, where he leads the product engineering team for Voleer, an automation solution for IT service professionals. He is an established software development leader with extensive experience in architecture, design, and implementation of software products known for reliability, scalability, and security.