2 major challenges I faced as a product developer

When I started developing software as a team member, and later as a project manager, I started to face some of the challenges that you are probably familiar with.

With the little experience I had, these challenges proved to be difficult to solve. During part of my journey, they even felt impossible to solve. I know better now…

The first and most important challenge for me was the need to meet a strict deadline.

We ended up calling it the Christmas problem.

We called it the Christmas problem because we had product launches tied to Christmas. Here’s how we described it: “Christmas doesn’t wait for you, no matter what the project steering group say!”

The Christmas problem was just one of the problems that I faced as a product developer.

Another very common problem I faced in my Product Development career, was knowing what to deliver, not just when. What was customer value? Hint: requirements documents don’t tell you that. I learned this lesson after a few frustrating years arguing with sales with phrases like “But, guys! This is what the requirements specification said!” Sales reps didn’t really care, and these days, neither do I!

The crisis: Value is clear, but how to achieve it?

I remember one case. As a Product Manager I had a clear mandate (and goal): we needed to increase the revenues of the product. No requirements document. Just “increase the sales of the product or we stop the product altogether!”

To get there, a common temptation is to just add more features to the product. In fact, that was what we used to do up to that point! After a lot of struggling with the question, and with the help of my colleagues in sales and marketing I had an epiphany.

It’s not adding more features that is “value” for the customer!

Bear with me, this was not so easy to understand for me at the time. At first, I, as many of us, thought that adding features would add value to the product.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen! By that time I had been part of a few projects that delivered the products to the market with more (and better!) features, but nothing happened. No sales impact whatsoever. It was as if we had released nothing. I started asking: “what was the reason for that? How can we deliver more functionality and have no impact whatsoever on sales?”

I started asking: “what was the reason for that? How can we deliver more functionality and have no impact whatsoever on sales?”

I didn’t know the answer to these 2 questions, but I knew that adding more features alone would not help me be successful in product development!

Later on, I adapted my approach and started working differently. In one project I was involved with we worked with the customers regularly. Doing surveys, just like the one I have below, but also showing them the product on a regular basis.

We involved customers even before the product was ready for release. That gave us many insights about what was valuable for the customers, and therefore helped us decide what to add in the product before release.

The methods and practices I developed at the time helped me to focus my work in product development around customer value and on-time delivery. The two key challenges that I faced.

Those are the most important aspects of the way I do product development whether for consulting clients, or for myself, in my own products.

The journey to impactful Product Development

But how did I get there? How did I develop and refine my approach? What did I try that didn’t work? And what did I try that worked? Those are the key questions. And that’s what I’ll be sharing here on the blog.

There were also several other challenges, that I faced and which led me to develop the product development approaches I use today.

One such approach is #NoEstimates, which is an approach to delivering on time always, without failure. You might ask: what do you do and how can you be sure of that? I’ll be sharing more information on what is #NoEstimates in practice and how it can help you deliver on time.

I will also be sharing a lot of the techniques I learned over time that I still used today to deliver products on time.

But before I go into that I would like to understand what are your product development challenges.

Your experience is different than mine.

Your voice, your Product Development challenges

Tell me, what are the challenges you are facing currently regarding delivering on time, and knowing what to deliver?

Fill in the survey below, it takes three minutes. Based on that survey, I will be posting here my answers to those challenges.

Some of you might have challenges I’ve never faced, and I will be transparent about that so that you know that I haven’t yet used whatever proposal I have for you to try. But, many of the challenges you faced are probably related to the same underlying anti-patterns that I’ve faced in my own work as a product developer.

For those anti-patterns, I will not only share some of the solutions I’ve used but also I will give you tips and tricks on how to do put them into practice.

So, if you help me figure out what your challenges are, I will share what I’ve learned that helped solve those challenges, and may also help you.

If you want to continue to receive the information that I will be sharing regarding product development, please sign up here I will only share that information with the people on the product development list.

The survey, 3 minutes to complete, many blog posts with solutions to read

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