14 Dec 2021
Agile product development is a journey.
It starts with an idea or a concept. It then continues in developing the product, testing it, releasing it, then iterating with the help of fast feedback loops.
Agile product development differs in every organization and product. The difference comes from the nature of the product being developed (physical, digital, existing, new, etc.) and the organization type. Even though the detail of the process might be different, the progress of the high-level journey stays similar.
In this article, digital product development will be in focus.
People use products to solve an existing problem.
The first step to creating a successful product is to identify the problem that your potential users are struggling with.
To understand the problem, you need to start conversations with potential customers.
Use your friends, family, acquaintances, or network to dig deeper into the problem space.
This is the most crucial step in agile product development. If you identified a problem, that actually doesn't exist the effort in the next stages will be a waste of time.
To identify the problem you should focus on solving, you should conduct surveys, user interviews and get as many insights. In this stage, be careful not to shadow your efforts with your biases. It's a common mistake for many product managers to already have a fixed mindset for problem identification. This results in trying to confirm her idea instead of pivoting if the initial problem is not validated.
After identifying the problem which results in a product idea, you need to quantify the problem and hence the opportunity. Try to understand how big the problem is, how many potential customers face the problem. Validate if people will be willing to pay for a solution. Remember you can have the perfect solution to an existing problem. However, if no one is willing to pay for it you will not survive in the long term.
Once you identified the problem and validated the opportunity, you're good to go for the first concept of the product. Some solutions to the identified problem might be clear. However, you need to make sure that this is the right solution and that the potential customers will use it.
The best way to validate the product is to create a concept that is viable enough to be tested. That is an essential part of agile product development. Make sure you do not waste much time on the nitty-gritty details of the product.
Remember it’s not getting feedback about how pretty your product looks, but getting a good understanding of the product solves the problem of the user. Get your users to play around with the concept and give their feedback freely.
Early testing helps you to understand if you should go further with the solution or need to pivot to solve the problem. Don't be shy with the prototype of your product, it's there only for validation. Remember the famous quote of Reid Hoffmann, the founder of Linkedin
"If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late."
Now that you have an idea and product concept in hand that has been validated by your potential users. It's time to create the vision and then builds the roadmap based on this vision.
It's extremely important to have a solid product vision that aligns everyone to achieve common understanding and the shared objective. Define the purpose of the product, who is it for, and what outcome it gives to the users.
As trivial as it might be to some, having your vision will keep the product team focused on the right outcome. The vision will also give direction to your roadmap and identify the priorities. Additionally, vision will shape into specific OKRs once you release your product.
After you have crafted your product vision, now it's time to create the roadmap and decide on the prioritization. Particularly in the early phases of a product, it’s challenging to find the right prioritization, since there will be many ideas and features that you want to ship.
However, you should bring your focus to releasing an MVP first. MVP is a big discussion topic among many product managers. It’s the minimal scope in the product that will bring value to the user and is testable so that it brings valuable feedback.
Keep in mind, in agile development it's greatly important to learn fast so you can adapt to feedback in a timely manner.
Product vision helps you while you create your roadmap items and prioritize them. It will help to also identify the KPIs that you want to target. It will be valuable to set short-term and long-term KPIs, which helps you measure the success of specific features.
KPIs are critical for quantifying business objectives because they give direction in an objective manner for decision-making in your product roadmap, and you will be making a lot of decisions through agile product development!
KPIs also ensures that success does not mean different things for different people in the organization but everyone has the same thing in mind and it's not open for misinterpretations.
Make sure to review these targets with your team continuously so you can review the progress and make adjustments if the need arises.
After you have your roadmap for your product, you're good to go to start the implementation process. The initial version of your product should be developed with minimum effort to get maximum feedback from the users. This means, your product should have just enough functionality to be tested.
You may choose to release your MVP to a certain group of users or to any user who would be interested in using it. The advantage of creating a beta user group is that risk is minimized if things do not go as planned, like unforeseeable bugs.
You can ask your friends, family, and your close network to try out the product, which ensures you have a close feedback loop and fast access if you need to ask questions ad-hoc. However, the risk of a closed beta group is that the user group might be biased and users could filter out negative feedback.
If you market your MVP via various channels and are open to anyone who would be interested, make sure that you have also a solid strategy of how to get feedback from these users.
This could be done with surveys or one-on-one talks. It doesn't matter to what kind of group you want to release your MVP. However, it's extremely important that you get quick feedback and turn these feedbacks into roadmap items and iterate on the product as fast as you can to ensure product success.
Don't forget iterating on a product is a continuous process. Until your product disappears from the market you will be working on iterations to ensure you reach your product success.
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