The Day I Understood The Philosophy Behind Product Development
Being a content writer, it’s the core requirement of my profile to get the essence of my organization. Being a newcomer in a visionary company like Hestabit, I am gradually assimilating the perspectives of its thought leaders, to understand the company’s core philosophy.
Hestabit believes in inclusiveness, which is something I can surely sense.
Recently a workshop was conducted, bringing together the Project Management, Business Development, and Marketing teams. The purpose was to converge the perspectives of respective teams on Product Development. This was a fruitful manifestation of that inclusiveness.
The purpose was to discuss our core philosophy behind product development, so that all teams established sync, and developed a product-centric approach rather than a requirement-centric one.
The tone of the workshop was set by the Co-founder, who is also the Service Delivery Head. He broadly explained how Product Development is perceived at Hestabit. He said and I quote:
“Product Development for us revolves around the idea and its potential to penetrate the market. The role of technology comes later. We strive towards making our clients realize the true potential of their idea, by constantly communicating with them, and pushing them in the right direction. The end product should either disrupt the industry, or add value to an already disrupted industry”
The product in the spotlight was a property review and listing platform. It’s important to mention that essentially it was a property review platform. At the outset of the workshop, the idea behind and idiosyncrasies of the product were deciphered, so that each team was on the same page.
How close was the current state of the product to this idea?
The answer to this was gradually unfurled as the workshop went forward, and as we assessed the tangible aspects of the product, like its website.
The idea was to discuss the Whys related to the product, and what features have been implemented to cater to those Whys.
Why should a tenant review a property on this platform rather than on its competitor’s?
In this context, a few pertinent questions were put across:
- How different was the product from its competitors?
- If it’s primarily a property review platform, then how can the genuineness of a review be confirmed?
- Can someone review an unlisted property on the platform?
- If an unlisted property has been reviewed, then how can its owner claim the property?
I could see, there were definitive answers to a few of the questions. For instance, to lay emphasis on the genuineness of a review, it has been made mandatory for the tenant to upload AST document. Also, to make the platform different from its competitors, reviewers are allowed to review even the unlisted property.
But how can the owner who hasn’t listed his property on the platform yet, claim it when someone posts a review of it? There was a bit of incertitude regarding this question. Maybe there wasn’t a proper mechanism to notify the owner. Maybe there wasn’t a proper UI to let the owner seamlessly claim his property.
Such discrepancy led us to an important conclusion.
“There should be consistency between the definition, development, and design of the product.”
Being marketers, managers, or designers, it's important for us to get into the shoes of users. That’s where User Mapping comes into picture.
The key questions that were put across during this segment of the workshop were:
- Who are the potential users of the product?
- What are their perspectives?
- What are they exactly looking for?
For this particular product, there were three key users, namely the reviewer, the reader, and the property owner. Once we started looking at the product from their perspective, certain suggestions came from all quarters.
Keeping reveiwers in mind, it was suggested that there should be a feature to maintain their anonymity. For readers, it's important that they see relevant reviews, based on their locations.
And when it comes to property owners, it’s important that they receive prompt emails, in the event of receiving negative reviews.
It was interesting to see how right questions can be raised, and how a right direction can be attained if we become more method-oriented.
From User Mapping, the next step was to discuss User Journey, to find out whether there were some gaps between the intended and achieved 'User Experience' or not.
It was time for some hands-on experience, where every individual saw the website in various capacities. The objective was to see whether the website gave the feel of a review platform or just another property listing platform.
Some interesting observations were made regarding the UI and the overall appearance of the website. For example, the background images used on the homepage were giving the feel of a property rental platform. It wouldn’t have given the right cue to the potential reviewer. Also, the review button wasn’t highlighted using appropriate colors and font. It was suggested that the UI should be more simple and to the point for both the reviewer and owner.
All these suggestions were pointing towards that significance of relevancy.
This led us to the last segment of the workshop, where a video was shown to us, on how Netflix has tapped the aspect of relevancy, thus becoming the undisputed video streaming site. The video explained the algorithm of Netflix, and how it displays a unique version of the site to every user.
It customizes the shows and movies it display, based on the viewing habits of a particular user.
Netflix uses machine learning to personalize the images displayed for each user. It knows which image or artwork a user is most likely to click, and which show he/she is most likely to watch for hours.
For instance, a user might have an inclination for deeply emotional faces or reactions, and Netflix knowing that will put across similar artworks or images.
Netflix wants you to find something you actually want to watch. They try to avoid the clickbait images that misrepresent the piece of media.
There are thousands and thousands of combinations, but the result is a unique page for each user. That’s how refined the algorithm has become.
Netflix is certainly a quintessential example to show the impact of relevancy.
So what did I take away from this workshop?
I must say, it was a comprehensive workshop, where the focus was kept on identifying and addressing customer needs as well as validating our own assumptions, for implementing the design principles, so that product-to-market fit can be created.
What I understood was that our focus is to remain revenue-driven with our product decisions. We believe revenues are the truest validation of delivering value to customers. For us, outcomes are more important than outputs. We don’t measure success based on the features we build but based on the impact they create.
We definitely believe in Lean Startup and Agile principles of product development. While building the product, we see customers as close development partners. Our efforts are aligned more with the product discovery, than anything else.
Of course, product development and implementation have their own space, but due emphasis must be given to product discovery. Personally speaking, for the right product discovery, it’s important for us to simplify complex information and build shared understanding for the teams, which this workshop surely achieved.
The role of project managers and their team is paramount. It’s them who can really put forward the philosophy of a company, and make them stand out from the crowd. Seasoned project managers should use their acumen for strategy, commerce, and design, to understand and empathize with the customers in a balanced manner. It is them who can understand the needs and pain-points of customers, even better than customers themselves at times. In the end, it’s all about delivering on the promise, each and every time.
We can’t afford to play the waiting game today and need to respond rapidly to change. We must develop and iterate our product quickly, without compromising on the quality. It’s important to take a methodological approach, and identify the right KPIs to track success. It can enable us to be flexible and adapt to change.
Hestabit has grown into a tremendously successful organization, owing to the efforts we put into an idea, to turn it into a thriving product. We will surely continue to enable clients, so that they can realize their business ambitions, through our array of services, from strategy to operations. Our role as a technological as well as a strategic partner for our clients is evolving, and fruitful times are certainly ahead of us.