Product development is a straightforward process — until your products get into the hands of real customers! As an early stage SaaS startup with freemium and paid plan solutions the decision process around what features to develop and what to put into the roadmap can often be make or break.
When you are developing the MVP (minimum viable product) it is easy. You know what you want and you develop it. Extensive customer feedback, testing and input isn’t the core driver of product development at this stage. Once the MVP is complete and you’ve done QA to ensure no bugs, you roll it out to your pilot customers for “feedback”.
This is where the problems start.
As Mike Tyson famously said — “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. For products, feedback from your pilot customer is that punch in the mouth waiting to happen.
Pilot customers are extremely valuable as they give you a sense of what’s working and what’s not. However, they also represent a small sample size and may not represent what all of your customer really need. So when product feedback is received, the initial temptation is simply to do everything the pilot customers request in order to satisfy their needs. It’s natural to want to support your early backers. From a product development perspective, what you do next is extremely important. You have three options:
1. Develop as per the pilot customers comments and expectations.
2. Develop based on external research and analysis results.
3. Develop based on what your internal product team feel is correct.
All three of these have advantages and disadvantages as follows:
If you develop based on the pilot customers, comments and expectations you run the risk of developing features and functionality that whilst may be useful for one customer may not be useful for any others. Remember almost 65% of features in software are rarely or never used. As a startup you cannot afford to be developing features and functionality that are not universally needed by almost all your planned customer base. The advantage of this however is that you are developing features and functionality that has some market research behind it as you have at least one prospective customer wanting this. Recommendation is to see how much you trust your pilot customers judgement and act accordingly. Maybe validate the request amongst other pilot customers. However, be very conscious that you may get a lot of varying answers and the time taken to do this at MVP stage often cannot be afforded.
If you develop based on external research and analysis results it means you have taken the ideas and concepts from the pilot customers and gone to a wider market for feedback. The risk here is that you stagnate the development process. It is very easy with this methodology to simply get bogged down in micro details in order to produce perfection. Remember perfection is the enemy of progress. As a fledgling software company time to market is critical and you rarely can afford the time and effort to do focus groups, analysis of the results and then move to product development. On the flip side this workflow does allow you to ensure you are developing what the majority of your client base will want.
If you develop based on what your internal product team feel is correct there is the risk that you develop what is not needed by the market. This is by far the quickest road to a market ready product but whether you have product-market fit is another question. Therefore, with this methodology it is critical that your product team contains subject matter experts (SME’s). With SME’s in your team you can develop with confidence that you are producing what the market needs so you can be quick to market with a product-market fit.
In summation as a new software company trying to get a product to market that is fit for purpose and get it done as quick as possible so you can start to make revenue you should listen to your pilot customers and early adopters but use your internal subject matter experts to define the product roadmap. During your race to market do not over-analyse, over-specify or over-develop, otherwise you run the risk that you will be too slow to market with a product that has features that most people don’t want or need.
Get your software 80% correct with features that most customers want and get it done as quick as you can. You then stand a chance of being successful, even if you’ve been punched in the mouth!
Peoplewave is Asia’s leading blockchain-ready HR software company. It is revolutionising people management with data-driven, transparent feedback and verified performance data. Peoplewave offers two key products — the “First 100 Days”: a new hire onboarding tool and “Performance Wave”: continuous 360-degree performance appraisals.
Peoplewave’s software suite is blockchain-ready — its blockchain platform is called “Wavebase”. Wavebase is a revolutionary platform that provides ongoing verified employee performance information that will change the face of hiring and managing workplace talent.