We received a lot of positive feedback on the product innovation article we had featured in CustomerThink. The response was so overwhelming that we decided to elaborate on the 3 main points we had featured in the original post.
If you’re interested in learning how we partner with clients to innovate and build great products, make sure you follow the tips in this post.
Data Harvesting: Collecting Customer Pain-Points
If you don’t have the proper foundational research and data to establish the right goals, innovation projects can become unfocused. Without a defined scope & target audience, these projects may ultimately result in more costs than benefits to everyone involved.
Start off by answering a few key questions: who is this for, why do they need it, and when do they need it by. And the best way to get this information is by gathering quantitative and qualitative data.
Generally speaking, you can gather qualitative data from customer and stakeholder interviews. Don’t settle for qualitative data from just the customer or just the stakeholder. Sometimes misalignment between customer and stakeholder perception can reveal important process problems.
A lot of the information you get from stakeholders will be straightforward, but the customer interviews will need to be more nuanced. You don’t need to interview dozens of customers when you’re gathering qualitative data. Typically, getting information from 5-8 customers can be enough to gather valuable takeaways. If you don’t know what questions to ask, start off with these:
How did you find us?
Who else did you consider?
What were some of your considerations when choosing a product/service provider?
What was the ultimate deciding factor in choosing us?
What do you like/dislike about our offering?
If you could change/add one thing/feature, what would it be?
Asking the right questions can give you a clear vision of the customer journey. In order to truly innovate, you need to understand the customer journey as it is today, and what the ideal journey could look like in the future.
When you’re talking through these points, it’s very important to dig into the importance around any issue so you can assess how valuable each idea may be. Some things they mention may be low on their priority list, and others could be significant.
You’re going to be getting a lot of data from customers, so be sure to boil their feedback down into key pain points and takeaways. Prioritize your findings by balancing customer value, business value, and level of effort.
If you find that you didn’t get enough data from your first round of questions, a survey could help fill in the gaps. You should consider sending it out to a larger group of people to validate key findings and appropriately value potential ideas and initiatives.
Timely and Cost-Effective Change: Iterative Updates
Instead of trying to have everything actualized and built at once, make building it out a process. Focus on gradually adding features depending on their importance to the overall end goal. Think about the leanest possible solution to your problem, and identify your must-haves vs. your nice to haves.
It’s always good to have a vision and goal for your end product, but trying to build it all at once leaves you and your team open to significant risks. You could end up investing important resources into unvalidated assumptions you’ve made along the way. A feature you thought was critical to your product could end up being inconsequential after more user testing.
If you build all at once, you also run the risk of stretching out your launch timeline. By the time you’re finished building, customer needs and wants may have completely changed by the time your product hits the market. Remember: user needs and wants aren’t static. They’re going to evolve as you build your product, and we’re going to get into how you can make sure you keep user needs top of mind in the next section.
If you’re having trouble figuring out where to focus your iterative updates, always look back on your research.
Keep in mind what your customers said they needed, and think about how they’re currently solving their problems. Take note of how often they brought up certain features. Did they want to talk about certain things without being prompted by you? Was there genuine excitement over some features, or just polite interest?
Putting time limits on your development process can also help. You may need the occasional long sprint, but it’s always a good idea to keep things within a reasonable time frame. See what you can accomplish in just 40 working hours.
Checking Yourself: Validate Your Ideas
We previously mentioned the importance of collecting data from your customers and stakeholders. Don’t plan on only collecting data at the beginning of your development process. You should be constantly gathering customer feedback and testing along the way to help shape your iterations.
When you start to view testing as just another milestone to reach during a project plan, you may not be able to get the data you need to truly innovate. Testing is one of the most valuable tools you can have when you want to reduce risk in innovation, and it should be done as often as possible.
Don’t think that you have to have everything built out to validate an idea. A simple wireframe can be more than enough to test your ideas with your audience and validate/invalidate an idea.
When you’re testing more complex functionalities, there are a variety of tools (InVision, Axure, Justinmind, Figma) you can use that can allow you to create a functional prototype from your design files without having to rely on code to build it.
When you follow this strategy, you can easily cut unnecessary features early on in the development process and can easily reprioritize features and needs on the fly. Remember, reprioritizing doesn’t mean endlessly adding new features to your MVP. You’re just simply redirecting your focus on the things that matter the most.
If you have all of your features marked for the first phase of development, it’s time to go back and reevaluate your MVP. If you add a new feature to your roadmap mid-cycle, you’ll most likely have to backlog a different feature, which may be totally appropriate as long as that decision is grounded in data and customer feedback.
Business innovation is never simple, but when you focus on the right things, innovation is much more attainable. Prioritizing data collection, iterative updates, and idea validation can put you on the right path to true innovation.
There’s a lot more that could be said about bringing innovation to your business. One of our key offerings at O3 World revolves not just around innovation, but also strategy. We’ve conducted innovation workshops with clients, built prototypes, and helped companies innovate their flagship products. If you’re interested in building an effective innovation strategy for your business, reach out to us so we can start a conversation.