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Are You Planning a New Product or Service? You Should Read This Before You Start!

17th Sep 2012
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Like it or not, new products alter consumer behaviour.

If you are building a new product or service, you are aiming to replace long held habits. Think of any product or service that you used recently. You played with it, liked it and then adopted it. Subconsciously, you built a new habit around it. Or, you struggled with the product or service: you flirted with it and abandoned it, or worse, continued with it due to lack of options, growing frustrated that ‘it feels so difficult to use’. But, at least you noticed it.

Companies put out tons of products and services every day, hoping that folks like you will use them. Most never grab your attention, and languish in limbo. (The mobile app stores are great examples of this – many apps are never noticed and hence find no takers). Today, it’s easier than ever to start a company on an idea you believe in (especially in software or web services). It’s tougher to figure out if you have a winner at hand.

Given that you – or your company – have limited time, energy and resources to pour into an idea, how do maximize your chances of success?

Many of us fantasize about the imagined success of a great idea we have– yes, the one that will make you the next Apple – but we rarely understandhow to unlock its success. We may relegate the idea to the domains of fantasy of ‘what it could be’, or else, plunge in headlong to bring it to life. But often, we miss asking some fundamental questions: What consumer proposition should you craft from your idea? Who is going to use it? How will they find out about it?What will they hear about it: what will they think about it? Will they ever buy it or use it?

And ultimately, what will you gain? (Let’s not forget our selfish gene – we want recognition or money: actually, both!). Much of the thinking will be unique to your idea,but it helps learning how others build products or services. The journey from an idea to a successful product is an interesting one. It is also a highly – to borrow computer science terminology– context-sensitive one.

Context can involve multiple items, including, but not limited to:

-         Your targeted users, their likes and dislikes

-         Their problems that your product could solve and the current ways they cope with these problems

-         The constraints that consumers have when considering products or solutions

-         Competitive efforts in the field

-         Dependencies on other companies, policies or regulations that affect your idea

-         Internal and external stakeholders who need to align to your thinking

-         Legal or technical factors affect your product’s success

-         Markets you could operate in and current dynamics

-         Revenue sources and market feasibility

-         Gestation period and investments required to get your product off the ground (entry barriers)

-         Best timing for launch and operation and market sentiments at the time

Sit down with a blank piece of paper, and you could probably figure out your own context.

Many factors may cut your idea short immediately (especially legal factors). You may be able to control some of the factors, influence others, plan around or ignore others, and decide that you just want to mould others by force of will. But as you start planning your product or service, it helps to be aware of the process and factors that will affect the outcome.

In this series of articles, let’s explore some of the process that goes into crafting a product out of an idea.


Setting the context

The idea for this series emerged from a discussion with yourstory.in about product companies in India. We have seen progress in the product space, but there is still confusion about the basics. Product management is a fairly new domain in India. There are not many formal trainings available for product management. And while this is usually one of the most critical roles within a company, most product managers learn on the job. It is also a highly sought after role, but most folks do not know what a product manager does, and how this role plays out.

Let’s explore some aspects of product management through this series like:

-         Ideating on a product

-         Understanding consumer behaviour

-         Decision making in a product management role

-         Working with other domains like marketing, R&D, etc.

-         Go-to-market for the product

-         Managing a product in the market

The topics I discuss here may be different for other domains (building an iPhone game requires different skills from managing a mobile phone), but the basic principles of product management hold true even in other domains.

I know that there are many ways of dealing with product management, and many of you may have your own views on the topics discussed. In the next article, we will explore what the product management domain deals with and some key challenges for a product manager, through the product lifecycle.

Note: the views expressed in this article belong solely to the author

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