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Continuing the weekly roundup of the 5 pointers- here is a list of some more “do nots”
6. Do not Confuse Exciting Features with “Nice-to-Have” Features – an emotional element is probably one of the most neglected aspects of a product definition. Yet when products are being specified, exciting or inspiring features and ideas are almost always the first to get censored in the near constant negotiation to develop a product in the desired timeframe. It is relatively easy to come up with a product with a solid list of functional and practical features, but not have one that creates the desired enthusiasm or loyalty. Without that enthusiasm and excitement, it is much harder to build a community of loyal customers, which makes it much harder to sell and support the product.
7. Do not Obscure Adding Features with Improving Product – Inevitably any product team with a product that is struggling will certainly find themselves racing frantically to implement a new set of features that the team hopes will address the problems and finally get the customers to take the plunge and buy. Sadly, adding features is rarely the formula for improving your product. The good product team is constantly improving the product, which primarily means making the product more usable and accessible to an ever-wider audience of target customers.
8. Do not Baffle Impressive Specifications with an Impressive Product – Many teams diligently follow their company’s product lifecycle, and produce thorough product requirements specifications, and several thick design and architectural specifications filled with UML diagrams and impressive graphics, and while these documents can be useful in terms of helping to ensure that the product team has thought about a range of important issues, it must always be kept in mind that paper documents can do very little to ensure you’re actually building a product that your customers will want to buy.
9. Do not Mystify a Complete Product with a Sellable Product – Even with the best of products, if your organization is not set up to effectively distribute and sell the product, or if you cannot reasonably support the product, then your product will not get the response you are hoping for. You need to look closely at your organization’s structure, the business model, the sales and distribution model, and ask yourself if the product you are creating can be effectively sold and supported in this model. It is much easier, in general, to adjust the product to fit the company structure and business model than it is to change the company to meet the needs of your product. Remember that these whole product issues are just as important as the product itself, and that many otherwise good products have languished in the wrong company.
10. Confusing Product Launch with Success – Finally, many product teams lose sight of the real measure of success. Success is not launching on time, or getting good reviews from the press, or winning competitive evaluations, or getting the product installed successfully, or even landing major new customers and cashing the big checks that come along with those sales. These are all good things but they don’t speak to the ultimate goal of having happy customers successfully using your product. Unfortunately, many product teams stop short of this goal. They either give up too soon, or they move on to the next product, or they get distracted. It is very easy to get obsessed with what a competitor is doing, or worry about how some new technology will impact the product, or any number of factors that distract you from the real prize, which is a rapidly growing community of inspired, enthusiastic, and loyal customers.
All said and done
Beyond these common product pitfalls, it is worth emphasizing that everything starts with the right people on the product team. These are the people that will make the thousands of decisions during the course of the project that will determine the success of the product. While good process and technique can significantly improve your chances for success, without the right team in place there is frankly little hope.
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