4 Keys in delivering a digital product that works

Digital has changed everything, but yet, we still see some businesses and brands like Blockbuster, Kodak and others that were too married to their own way of thinking or too slow to adapt to the new reality.

Digital demands new thinking and we believe the process of building enterprise-level solutions will need to adapt for the digital age. From an Interactive TV solution created to connect Star Trek fans, and transform their viewing experience on G4 TV from passive to interactive; to an online sales tools developed for Adobe’s global salesforce to access their latest products anytime, and anywhere; to a mobile platform designed to engage fans of the Olympics and take them along the journey of Team USA;  At The1stMovement, we have built and seen these “products” (websites, apps, online tools, etc.) become key offerings of almost all successful enterprises. If executed correctly, they can not only enhance relationships with their customers, but even create new sources of revenue.

A product becomes a solution when it solves a problem.

But not all products can become a solution.  To deliver a product that works, we have seen these as the keys to success:

  1. Define your value-driven product vision

  2. Design your product for the end users

  3. Prioritize features with the most impact

  4. Continuous iterative and incremental improvements


“Start With Why”
Too many times we have gotten a RFP or a description of what product the client wants to build, or how they would like it to be built.  However, a successful solution must start with everyone on the team understanding what problems the product is trying to solve, or what value the product will provide; we must clearly define the “why” of the product.  Aligning the product vision, the “why”, will keep the team focused on what features it must have to deliver the most value.

 Questions to ask:

  • what business problems are you trying to solve?
  • what are the success metrics this product must hit to drive the most value to the business?

“The customer is God”
More often than not, the product features are defined by the business team themselves, and more often than not, they are not the intended end users of the product.  Great products are designed with the end users’ needs, wants and limitations in mind. You do not always have to spend significant money and time to do qualitative and quantitative research on your users, but you must understand their behavior “triggers” that lead to not only engagement, but bring them back to it again and again.

Questions to ask:

  • who are your end users?
  • what are the emotional and tactical “triggers” that would bring them back again and again?

“Minimal Effort, Maximum Learning”
The methodology of lean or agile development has gained much popularity in the recent years within both large enterprises and startups, and while they began with two different methodologies, they both have proven effective in solving one of the biggest product development challenges for both enterprises and startups: How can we be more responsive to the ever-changing needs of the business and the end users?

 Shorter production cycles, more visibility to development progress, more collaboration and alignment between stakeholders, more accurate time and budget estimates, and last but not least, a better quality product.  These are just some of the many benefits of applying lean and agile, but they are more than just processes, they are principles that if applied and executed correctly, would fundamentally enhance not only the workflow and end-results, but the workforce culture itself.

Questions to ask:

  • what features would make the most impact (against your key metrics)?
  • what features can you build with the least amount of effort to gain the most learning on how your users use your product?

“Incremental Innovation”
Understand that there is no such thing as a “perfect product” from the get-go.  The products we have grown to love and use everyday, everything from our mobile phones,to the cars we drive, have to continue to evolve to address the increasing desire by the customers.  The same goes for any digital product.

Listen, learn, build, and measure.  This revolving cycle of product development focuses on a series of small improvements to your product, and it will improve the product’s competitive position over time, thus fostering innovation.

Question to ask:

  • are you listening to your users, through continuous analytics and measurements, to improve your product?

Developing a product that works is not like building a house.  If you leave it alone, it will become less useful to the users overtime. Focusing on the product vision, designing against your user expectations, and innovating over time based on data will allow your product to become a solution that actually solves a problem.

Further reading:
– Start with Why
The Lean Startup
Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products
The Agile Samurai: How Agile Masters Deliver Great Software


Ming Chan

As founded and CEO of The1stMovement, Ming was named as one of the "Top 10 Asian Entrepreneurs" by Inc. Magazine, and has led the agency to numerous accolades including 3-time Inc. 500 "Fastest Growing Private Companies in America", 3-time "Best Places to work in LA", and 5000% growth in 5 years with his passion for innovation and company culture. Follow @mingAtT1M

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