Top 4 Product Development Strategies to Stay Competitive in a Disruptive Market

Melissa Tatham | December 13, 2016

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The “smarter” and more complex modern systems get, the more complicated the process required to build them becomes. Systems engineering teams working in regulated industries suffer an unfair share of the pain of product and systems development and management. In such industries, the margins of operation have always been tight, with little to no room for error, and maintaining product integrity is difficult.

As software becomes more and more embedded into technology, the rate of innovation accelerates. Connected software has also changed expectations. Customers expect seamless interaction with technology solutions across form factors and devices. They expect their technology will constantly evolve or update post-purchase. Many organizations have a hard time keeping up with the rapidly accelerating pace of change, especially when their teams work in silos using outmoded systems. Product development is often plagued by preventable delays, which can make or break your business.

Disruptive technologies are not seen as a threat but as an opportunity. Change is embraced rather than managed. The “old way” of sharing documents via email attachments and having meetings to discuss decisions doesn’t work when you need to move fast. Decision-making needs to happen in real time and everyone impacted by that decision or change needs to find out about it immediately — in the tools they are working in. Whether they are mobile, tied to their email or living in Agile developer tools, they still stay connected to the rest of the team.

The core of development — define / build / test — needs to be solid. In addition to defining all the features and functions, take time to understand, define and share the “Why.” Build with a very strong view of what outcomes the product should deliver to your customers. Most importantly, define and clearly communicate the business outcomes your product needs to achieve. Teams need alignment — business with product development, hardware with software, systems with components, buyers with suppliers—on what they are building so they don’t waste time on lower-importance features. When you define the why, you deliver faster.

1. EMPOWER BETTER DECISION-MAKING
If you and your team have a clear understanding of the “Why,” you can cut through discussions, trust that team members will make the right decisions and navigate through technical complexities. Allow team members to make fast, high quality decisions with an understanding of acceptable tradeoffs. Business leaders need full visibility into the progress and tradeoffs under consideration in development, and definers and developers should have full visibility into the expectations of the business. Decisions need to be captured and assigned owners, so everyone involved can initiate and record follow-on questions to visible resolution. Good decisions need context or situational awareness, an understanding of impact and a way to get input from others. By providing context, strong relationships, and understanding the why, your teams will be able react to the new information more effectively for better outcomes.

2. TIGHTEN UP YOUR TRACEABILITY
If you’re operating in a regulated industry, it’s crucial you demonstrate compliance to specific governmental, environmental, security or privacy regulations. You need traceability analysis that proves you have tested your product against regulatory demands and that your deliverable meets the terms of a contract. In development, traceability generally refers to engineering activities such as change impact analysis, change and risk analysis, and verification. Traceability also links all these activities back to the business rationale. Does this test fulfill customer needs? Does it accomplish business goals? When everyone across the organization involved in product delivery is connected, each individual can quickly reach out to teams or individuals for faster decision-making and evaluate all the up and downstream implications of decisions.

3. COLLABORATION WITH PURPOSE
Collaboration is the layer that brings everything together – people and data. The key to purposeful collaboration is keeping communication connected to the work. In modern product delivery organizations, collaboration ties the conversations and communication directly to the specific requirement, specification or use case in question. Decisions are not made outside the process or stored in locked documents or email. The conversations stay connected to the work itself for ready access and understanding.

4. REUSE YOUR IP
Companies leading the pack find ways to reuse their IP at every level. It started with code reuse, but now we see customers reusing entire IP blocks—design artifacts, specifications, test cases, content for data sheets and process information— at the outset of new development. With purposeful collaboration integrated into product delivery tools, the entire context of product development can be reused. Every conversation, every decision about changes can import into new projects, so teams can be confident they are using only the latest approved and validated information. The bottom line is that product development is a business issue; it cannot live in the development world and absolutely needs to be a strategic priority. Products will not get built faster or better by throwing more technology resources at the development and product teams. Customers are transforming their businesses to innovate and out-compete. Change is happening in the enterprise. At the end of the day, your business builds value from what you deliver to the market, so there’s nothing much more important than doing this right.

  • Though these are presented as “strategies,” they are more like requirements. All businesses need these just to survive. Strategies are about achieving competitive separation by providing something that customers value, that can’t be duplicated by your competitors, and leverages the core competencies of what your company is good at.