6 Common Product Strategy Mistakes & How to Avoid Them
Mobile app development projects fail to find market success for many reasons: poor UX design, reduced functionality, no real value, among other reasons. But often, the failure of a product can be attributed to mistakes made during the product definition stage – before development even begins.
Quality applications begin by pinpointing a very particular user need the product is trying to address. Proper product definition is vital for guiding your development team towards understanding what that need is and the best approach for treating it.
Here is a list of common product strategy mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Taking Too Long To Ramp Up
Many projects simply take too long to get going. We’re not saying you should start development right away; in fact, jumping into development prematurely, before the product has been adequately defined, is another common product strategy pitfall.
With that said, many projects take way too long to get started, and the delay can mean a viable idea never becomes a realized product. Often, this is because people try to do too much from the get-go, rather than using an iterative, agile approach.
How to avoid it
Rapid prototyping, releasing a minimum viable product, and building and iterating off of your learnings is an effective way to ensure your product doesn’t get stuck in development hell.
2. Confusing Customer & Product Requirements
This mistake was pointed out by Martin Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group, who noted that:
- Customers don’t necessarily know what they want.
- Customers may not know all the possibilities – which is why they hired a professional product team in the first place.
- Customers aren’t in a position to see the full range of needs and opportunities.
In other words, it’s the product team – not the customer – that is responsible for mapping the product requirements.
A lot of planning goes into a product requirements document. A proper product definition stage involves translating customer requests into concrete product specifications which can be understood by engineering. Customer requests tend to be imprecise and non-technical in nature and without a qualified product team, you may not be able to identify the various implications of features on product performance.
How to avoid it
Focus on the requirements for building a good product, not just what the customer thinks is required. In product definition, your team should understand the market, emerging trends and technologies, and possibilities for the product to define the requirements for a successful outcome.
3. Crafting Requirements In a Vacuum
Products are often complex, and naturally, their requirements are as well. Product teams should be comprised of multiple people with different areas of expertise: product owners, project managers, developers, engineers, architects, designers, etc. This is because building a successful product requires all of these areas of expertise.
So why would you map out product requirements without getting input from your product team? While it seems obvious on the surface, this happens all the time in product definition.
How to avoid it
Get your team – PMs and POs, designers, developers, etc. – involved in product strategy and conceptualization. Agile methodology champions an integrated approach, meaning different members of your project team cooperate throughout product development; this includes product definition.
4. Mistaking Innovation For Value
Just because you can include certain features or functionalities, doesn’t mean you should. When new technologies or capabilities emerge, there is typically a push to be the first to implement them. The problem with this approach is that often, the drive to be innovative overshadows the value proposition. In other words, these features or functionalities don’t add any real value to the end user and aren’t integral to the product.
How to avoid it
Always remember that you are designing a product for a target user base. Does this feature or functionality add true value to the end user? Is it essential to the product? Would it significantly benefit the product? Do the benefits outweigh the cost/complexity of implementation? If the answer to these questions is no, you should exclude the feature or add it to the product roadmap for later execution.
5. Ignoring Competitive Threats
Market viability is foundational to every product. You need to understand the competitive environment and be cognizant of what the industry and your competition are doing. Part of this means staying on top of trends and emerging technologies to predict and be aware of any potential competitive threats. If you don’t, your product is more likely to fail.
How to avoid it
Industry and competitor research should be a mandatory part of your product strategy. What is the competition offering? How will your product be different? What needs/problems does it solve that other products can’t? Have you considered industry trends and competitive developments that could threaten the success of your product? Failing to address these questions can reduce your ability to bring a viable, useful product to market.
It’s important to understand your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, so you can set your product apart. With competitive research, you can define your product’s unique value proposition and optimize user lifetime value over time.
6. Failing to Prioritize Must-Haves vs. Nice-to-haves
In most cases, not every feature on the roadmap can be implemented in the initial version of your product. Accurately prioritized features allow your product team to build rapidly and get to market quickly. The essential features of your product – the ones required to go to market – are your primary concern. Prioritizing is easier said than done, and without clear communication, product teams often find themselves confused over which features are must-haves, and which are nice-to-haves.
How to avoid it
Have a classification system for prioritizing features. Coordinate with your project team to determine which features are critical to include, versus features your product can do without initially. We suggest classifying by “Must Have” and “Nice to Have” for particular builds, and then adding lower priority features to a product roadmap for future implementation. We also suggest prioritizing features within these classifications.
The MoSCoW method is a collaborative process for prioritizing features.
M defines a requirement that absolutely needs to be satisfied for the product to be marketable.
Features that fall under S are high-priority requirements that should be included if possible within the delivery timeframe. These features are not considered as time-critical, and exceptions may be necessary.
These are desirable but noncritical, nice-to-have features. The final product is still marketable without these requirements.
Won’t or Would (W)
Won’t or Would features are requests the stakeholders would like to have but agree to forgo for the first version of the product.
Using the MoSCoW prioritization method protects the scope of your project. This way, the product team has a solid understanding of what requirements are necessary to take the product to market and only build what is essential.
While a solid product strategy will not automatically equate to market success, it does offer your product a much greater chance. By avoiding the product strategy mistakes listed above, you can provide your product and your team with the foundation needed to break into the market successfully.
As a full service custom mobile app development company, Clearbridge Mobile handles the entire lifecycle of your product from Planning and Strategy, UX/UI Design, App Development, QA/User Acceptance Testing, to Technical Delivery. We use a unique agile development process that gives you control over scope, reduces your risk, and provides you predictable velocity. Start a conversation today to get started on your mobile project.