Getting From Idea To Product
Contributed by Marty Abbott
From the “C”-suite offices to the product manager’s desk, everyone seems to be frustrated with time to market as measured from the initial idea to the launch of the product. At one level, the frustration is understandable as nearly every organization has something they can do to improve time to market.
That said, unrealistic expectations stemming from a frustration over why things can’t happen overnight is an all too common problem that can be damaging to an organization. Unrealistic expectations can cause low morale and frustrations that ultimately lead to employee turnover, delays in product schedules and lost opportunities.
In our experience the problem behind unrealistic expectations often stems from a limited understanding of the product development process, and the misguided notion that the combined phases of product discovery, product engineering and product release should somehow take less time than the time it took to generate the initial idea: “I explained my idea three weeks ago. Where is the product and when do we launch?” This notion often isn’t stated out loud and if discussed in a group it even sounds ludicrous, but it exists nonetheless in the minds of many C level executives.
Good ideas are extremely valuable, and yours might be so brilliant that it creates significant strategic differentiation; creating barriers to entry for competitors and prohibitive switching costs for customers thinking of moving from your products. Your idea may be the result of endless hours of analysis and insight – but you must recognize that your idea and the desire to implement it is a form of demand generation for services from your product and engineering teams.
This “demand” generation is akin to deciding that you want to build a house with certain amenities. While we all understand that it takes time to build a house when considering the discovery phase (is our house feasible on the plot of land and with the local regulations, and is there a builder who can build it to our expectations?), architectural phase (a combination of designing the house and planning for the construction) and building phase (the engineering or construction of the house), we somehow have a hard time understanding that these concepts apply to your products and services as well.
None of this is meant as an excuse to have low standards, or a reason to not hold your team to an aggressive schedule of shareholder wealth creation. In fact, we argue for just the opposite. But understanding that even the most brilliant of ideas costs much less in time and money to “ideate” than to explore, specify, implement and deploy in systems and software is a good step towards creating aggressive yet realistic targets.
Ask for detailed plans and question the details until you are comfortable. Drive to the earliest possible date, but create that date from good analysis and good planning, and drive and challenge your team to create the best possible date from good data. Remember – if your idea can be implemented overnight, it can probably be copied in 2 nights by your competitors. True value creation can take time.