Developing Products That Matter
31 August, 2021
I am all about developing products that matter. If I think that what I am developing would not make the difference, I will walk away. Now, it is not easy to reach an agreement over what is a product that matters. In my opinion, a product that matters has a significant impact on people’s lives, helping them solve a specific problem.
Oftentimes, our efforts are measured through metrics of gaining revenue or reducing costs. While I won’t discount their importance, I think that what matters at the end of the day is whether people will use a particular product and if it will solve their problems. Knowing if a particular product would make an impact and how we can build one is a key challenge for any product leader.
For starters, I would identify a problem I want to solve for my customers. Customers can encounter many problems, but I can only help them solve those that I have competencies and passion for working on.
I deeply care about AI and automation and have spent the last couple of years expanding my knowledge of the domain. I see great potential in the intersection of AI and automation in solving real-life problems. Let me show what I have in mind by sharing two examples. A person runs an e-commerce store and can’t afford staff other than Operations. They don’t have anyone to respond to inquiries or customer issues, or anything similar. When the store was still small, they could do it themselves, but not anymore as their business started to grow. I could help an e-commerce store owner by deploying the technology that would, let’s say, respond to incoming inquiries or customer support queries.
There is another example that I am glad I could help solve. Pre-Covid, if a person wanted to process a claim with an insurance company, they would most likely have to visit an agent or retail location and file the claim in paper form. The pandemic required a new solution that would be safer, and consequently, technology to enable it. I came up with a solution that allowed people to file a claim digitally using a Facebook Messenger, What’s Up app or web browser. The claim is verified shortly, and people can reimburse the requested amount within a few minutes.
Once I know what the problem I would like to solve is, I would start assessing the existing resources. I would begin by analyzing the core strengths of my team and their areas of expertise. Then I would decide if I would start small, largely depending on the industry or geographical region. If that were a route I would take, I would get verification on a small scale and then expand my efforts. Knowing that you have a product-market fit is critical for developing products that matter. Ensuring it takes a number of iterations that happen over time but once established, one can focus on expanding the horizon and reaching as many people as possible.
At my current company, we are working to make AI and automation simple and applicable in a great variety of use cases. To solve the first problem I shared, we developed a chatbot to respond to customer questions. We trained the bot before we launched it to make it acquainted with the store and customers. In the past, it would take months for people to train their bots, but we built technology that only requires uploading documents about the business, and the bot would train itself, which saves a lot of time. We received a global award for this particular solution, which further acknowledged that the product we developed “mattered.”
- I am very fond of technology. As someone rather competent in technology, I consider it as a great enabler. However, I am aware that many of our customers are perplexed by its complexity and fast-evolving nature. So, for me, the main characteristic of a product that matters is to be accessible and usable. I will not be impressed by the technology itself if my customer cannot grasp how to use a product or will encounter multiple roadblocks along the way.
- Whatever we build, we have to keep end-users in mind: who will use our product and how it will help them. That is a fundamental principle to follow when developing products that matter.
- The fundamentals are critically important. As you gain experience, you tend to drift away from the fundamentals, often blindsided by many different concepts. The latest technology or highest revenue will frequently divert one’s attention from the fundamentals of why and for whom we are building something.
Scale your coaching effort for your engineering and product teams
Develop yourself to become a stronger engineering / product leader
Jord Sips, Senior Product Manager at Mews, shares his expertise on a common challenge for product managers – finding root causes and solutions.
Senior Product Manager at Mews
Snehal Shaha, Lead Technical Program Manager at Momentive (fka SurveyMonkey), details her short-term technical strategy to unify processes among teams following an acquisition.
Senior EPM/TPM at Apple Inc.
Pavel Safarik, Head of Product at ROI Hunter, shares his insights on how to deal with disagreements about prioritization when building a product.
Head of Product at ROI Hunter
Eric Merritt, VP of Engineering at Whitepages.com, divulges on the many complexities of developing teams in management by solving problems according to their needs, and empowering teams.
VP of Engineering at Whitepages.com
Brad Jayakody outlines the roadmap to maintaining a healthy balance between technical debt and team growth. However, just as balancing acts go it is important to have a strong foundation.
Director of Engineering at Motorway
You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.
Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.