Successful Digital Product Innovation
Written by Mark Van Driel
Building software to bolster the digital capabilities of your business is a costly and time-consuming adventure. Often the digital products that are created during this process fail to return the desired business outcomes, fall short of user (and customer) needs, and are difficult to maintain. Taking time to fully understand the opportunity provides the necessary space to innovate and achieve the goals that you seek. Creating concepts before building will help to validate your hypothesis while increasing the understanding of what will be built.
Innovate before you build
Here are the four key components of innovation that will dramatically improve the success of your digital products.
1. Align Stakeholders
Have you truly established your business and user goals? Does everyone have a clear understanding of the related changes and commitments that are required to achieving these goals? If they don’t have an in-depth knowledge of what you are trying to achieve, how can they possibly support it?
Using workshops and leader alignment sessions to kick-off a digital product initiative will pave the path to success. Continuing to engage stakeholders in key decisions as the product takes shape will ensure that the alignment continues for the life of the product.
2. Identify Business Goals
How many times have you heard that a business is building a digital product to grow the business? What does that mean? What measurement will be used for success? Is it simply revenue or do you consider margin? Is the goal the same for all of your company’s divisions?
Establishing clear desired business outcomes is critical for every digital product initiative. Not only does this provide a measurement of success, but it also acts as a guiding light for decision making and feature prioritization. As they say in the building trade, measure twice and cut once.
3. Understand User Needs
How can your staff completely understand all the of a user’s needs if they don’t ask them what they need? What is the business opportunity to optimize the experience for your users? Do you give them a chance to validate what they are getting before you build it? Or do you iterate numerous times in your build process to kind-of satisfy their needs?
Understanding the types of users you have, their daily workflow, and the specific needs they have provides the knowledge required to build a successful digital product. Engaging your users in a process of discovery, concepting, and validation will also drive a true partnership with the business.
4. Architect the right solution
Are you architecting a solution that can achieve the desired goals? Are you trying to leverage existing enterprise software even if it doesn’t fit? Do you have an understanding that a poorly architected solution can increase the long-term cost of the product? Are the desired outcomes even achievable for an investment that is in alignment with the business case?
Leveraging the business and user needs to derive the right architecture ensures that your digital product investment will not be wasted. Considering software packages, cloud native services, and custom software development investment in your architecture will ensure alignment to long-term business goals.
Preparing to build
After the first round of innovation, you can begin to plan for the building of the product. The target architecture and enterprise technology provide the foundation for process, visual, and technology-oriented frameworks. These frameworks are important to the success of the entire organization by providing consistency, reducing long-term cost, and the ability to increase the velocity of future build efforts.
Innovating before you build allows the development of valuable products while providing a roadmap for organizational transformation.