Before Creating a Product A Quick Guide for New Product Owners

We have all at one point or another had that moment when an internal light bulb clicks on we think we have the next revolutionary product idea. Come on, don’t be shy. You’re in good company, just admit that once upon a time, maybe over a few drinks, you shared your idea for some new product or service that you truly believed would revolutionize X.

So what happened? Did you get cold feet? I digress and before you feel I’m shaming you out of reading further, please know that I too, once upon a time, thought that I would create the greatest thing since sliced bread. Creating a product is no easy feat, especially in the digital space. The market is flooded with more apps than one has the energy to count or begin to recall. Consider the possibility that those digital products were created hastily, without taking key points into consideration.

Herein I’d like to go over what I have found to be the most elementary five steps everyone should take before beginning the journey to create a new digital product; regardless of the level of innovation therein. So let’s dive in and see where the fun begins!

Define the problem

The core idea of a digital product is to solve a problem so you as the Product Owner or PO must first define what the problem is. Now often the business owner will come to you with a perceived problem, but you must segment it in order to drill down to its core and understand clearly the nature of the problem.

Who is impacted by this problem? What issues is it causing? Why are those issues occurring? These among many other questions must be answered to clearly define the problem at hand. Be mindful not to jump to conclusions based on past experiences; this is a common pitfall many companies get caught in which is why so many digital products fail to hit the mark and genuinely solve the problem.

Approach this first step as you would a frog dissection in biology class from your high school days of yore. You know, back when you pretended to pay attention in class in order to get credit. Well now would be a good time to put those dissection skills to work in an analytical sense. Clear understanding of the core problem will help you prioritize correct solutions.

MVP first

Don’t put the chicken before the egg… or is it the other way around? Regardless, thinking and developing iteratively will give you the best chance to successfully solve the problem and create a product which users truly want to use as it brings them measurable value.

Consider an artist, they do not paint the Sistine Chapel as their first commissioned work. So too must you not aim to produce the next mega blockbuster digital product the first go around. Focus on delivering an MVP with entry level value for users. Gather feedback, analyze what works and what doesn’t, realign your focus as needed and push forward to the next version all the while following a clear roadmap paved for ultimate success.

Validate your assumptions

The MVP before will allow you to validate specific assumptions as to how users will interact with your product. This is vital to the success of the product as without this input you will be driving blind. There is a reason large corporations do considerable focus groups to gather feedback before launching global products aside from the obvious risk mitigation.

They say all press is good press, but wouldn’t you rather have your product remembered for the good reception it got rather than being written up as the stinker of the year in the digital business world? Of course you would, so run your user test groups and gather that feedback to better improve the offer your product represents to users.

Measurable performance

As a PO you need to understand KPIs, there is no way around it. Just because your team likes it, and your friends tell you it’s a great product doesn’t mean success is in its future. Ultimately, users will accept or reject your product and the key to understanding how it’s being received is in the numbers. KPIs will become your best friend so treat them as such. First define what metrics you will rely on to define success of the product. After this you can use that data to track how your product is doing once released. Trust me, numbers are your friend!

Business plan

Without further ado, I come to my final and nearly most important point… have a business plan! What I mean is, know how you’re going to monetize your digital product. The model of, “give it to them for free and get some ad money” is not a business plan. People don’t like ads and giving users a product for free is not a plan. Naturally you want to have a clear value proposition for the intended user, but don’t get so wrapped up in that that you lose sight of your own return on investment.

Consider that if you cannot find a way to monetize the product, it will likely end up in the ever growing grave of failed digital products. Focus on a business plan that has a monetization element to it and considers long term sustainability to the product you are creating. The value you’re making will only increase once you find a way to monetize it in a sustainable way that will not inhibit its user acquisition growth or retention.

So now that you’re armed with the basics, I encourage you to go out there are get your hands dirty. Dive into the exciting and creative world of product ownership. You will experience plenty of highs and lows along the way, but if you keep these points in mind, your course will be both steady and sustainable. Good sailing mate!

Byron Matthiopoulos
Byron Matthiopoulos
Managing Director
Byron Matthiopoulos joined as a Product Owner in 2018, shortly after moving to Cambodia, to help lead one of the biggest projects of the start-up at the time. His background as medical researcher, journalist & advertising photographer and diverse skills have provided a solid foundation for the complexities of the field of product building. His ability to assimilate multiple sources of data into a coherent vision allowed him to successfully run a number of exciting projects over the years. The diversity and complexity of his tasks since he joined Slash had perfectly positioned him to take over the role of Head of Product. He is now leading the ideation, design and creation of new and exciting products through user-centric digital innovation.
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