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Product requirements mistakes

6 Common Product Strategy Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

 

Mobile app development projects fail to achieve market success for many reasons. Poor UX design, lack of originality, inability to deliver value, among other reasons, are the most prominent. However, more commonly, product failure is attributed to a flawed mobile app planning phase. 

 

Quality mobile apps begin with pinpointing a very particular user need the product aims to address. Proper planning clarifies that need and guides the development team towards building a successful mobile app. Preparing a product requirements document (PRD) will help the team avoid common product strategy mistakes and is arguably the best starting point for a mobile project. 

 

Here is a list of six common mobile app planning mistakes and actionable tips to avoid them. 

6 Common Product Strategy Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Taking too long To get started

Many mobile app projects take too long to get started. The fast rate of disruption can leave companies scrambling. Building future-oriented product roadmaps and continuing to deliver existing business value is a tricky balancing act, and in many cases, companies are unable to adapt fast enough. Additionally, technological change is notoriously difficult to predict, making it hard to convince stakeholders to invest in development projects aimed at addressing future scenarios. 

 

The longer you sit with your idea, the more difficult it becomes to fully define a functional and feasible framework for development and make a compelling business case. With that said, the solution is not to prematurely jump into mobile app development before the product has been adequately defined. This can be detrimental to your product’s overall success. 

How to avoid it

One of the hardest parts of the development process is getting started. To avoid a prolonged mobile app development and launch process, it’s best to put all your high-level information, research, and specifications in one document by creating a PRD. With a PRD as your project foundation, you will be able to communicate technical feasibility, implementation plans, as well as risk and change management strategies to all team members and stakeholders. Proper mobile app planning has many benefits and speeds up the process significantly by giving the product vision enough shape to start prioritizing a feature set. 

 

Additionally, it is essential to take an iterative, agile approach and focus on rapid prototyping. As product requirements become clearer, concentrate your efforts on releasing a minimum viable product (MVP), and building and iterating off your learnings. This is an effective way to ensure your project doesn’t get stuck in development.

 

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Confusing customer & product requirements

In the early stages of planning product requirements, the overall product vision tends to be unclear. It’s challenging to determine what features and functionality are necessary to deliver user value. Similarly, it’s not always easy to see the full range of technical opportunities. It’s up to the product team to guide the customer through product requirements planning to discover the best possible development solution.

 

A proper product definition stage involves translating customer requests into concrete product specifications, which can be understood by engineering. It is the role of product management to understand the target market and its needs deeply and to combine what is possible with what is good and create products that solve real problems. 

 

A PRD document serves to translate your requests into indisputable product specifications. Initial ideas tend to be imprecise and non-technical, and communicating with your product team is critical. Without proper communication, you may not be able to identify the various implications of features on product performance.

How to avoid it

Weigh the requirements for building a good product against your product assumptions. It’s important to think critically about user assumptions, technical assumptions, and business assumptions. Your team should understand the market, emerging trends and technologies, and possibilities for the product to define the requirements for a successful outcome.

Crafting requirements in a vacuum

Products are often complex, incorporating multiple systems, subsystems, and functionality; naturally, their requirements are complex as well. The trap some organizations fall into is a result of a lack of diversity within the team. Product teams should be composed of multiple people with different areas of expertise: product owners, product managers, developers, engineers, architects, and UX/UI designers, to name a few. This ensures that different perspectives and opinions are brought to light, enabling a project to be well-thought-out.

How to avoid it

Get your team – product owners and product managers, 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.

 

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Mistaking Innovation For Value

The rush to incorporate innovation can cause development costs to explode. Just because you can include particular features or functionality, doesn’t mean you should. Emerging technologies and capabilities can sometimes create panic and cause the implementation of new requirements thoughtlessly. Again, this scenario stresses the importance of proper mobile app planning; a PRD allows for fewer mistakes between development handoffs and serves as a reference to determine the necessity of feature alteration. 

How to avoid it

Remain focused on your product goals and remember that you are designing a product for a specific user base. Does this feature or functionality add undeniable value to the end-user? Is it essential to 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.

Ignoring competitive threats

Market viability is foundational to every product, and competitive threats will inevitably throw a wrench into your development plans. Not only do you need to monitor your competition, but you also need to keep your eye out for emerging trends and technologies. 

 

 

Sometimes, your competitors will release products that rival your own with features too similar for comfort. In these situations, your team may have to pivot. Again, a PRD will be indispensable for these moments because you will have already brainstormed and documented alternative solutions to particular features that fit within the scope and budget of your project. 

How to avoid it

Industry and competitor research is a mandatory part of your product strategy. 

 

  • What is your competition offering? 
  • How will your product be different? 
  • What needs and problems does your product solve that other products can’t?
  • Have you considered industry trends and competitive developments that could or will threaten the success of your product? 

 

Failing to address these questions can reduce your ability to bring a viable, useful mobile app to the market. It’s necessary to understand your competition’s strengths and weaknesses to set your product apart. With competitive research, you can define your product’s unique value proposition and optimize user lifetime value over time.

Failing to prioritize must-haves vs. nice-to-haves

You are not going to be able to implement every feature in the first version of your product. It’s essential to determine what core feature is best suited to solve your users’ central pain point and take that solution to market first. Without clear communication, it’s challenging to determine which features are must-haves and which features 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. 

Final Takeaways 

While thorough product requirements planning will not automatically result in market success, it does offer your mobile app a better chance. By avoiding the product strategy mistakes above, you can provide your team with the foundation to successfully break into the market. Remember, successful mobile products begin by addressing a specific user need. A mobile app requirements document is an essential tool in helping you get a clear understanding of what that need is and how your product can address it.

 

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Chris Ciligot
Chris Ciligot