Collaboration: Working together through Product Delivery (Part 3 of 3)

For Part 1: Easy to Talk About, Much Harder to Achieve, read previous blog post

For Part 2: Working Together through Product Discovery, read previous blog post

In the last blog post we talked about the importance and the opportunities for collaborating during the product discovery phase of the product development lifecycle. In today’s blog post, we take a look at collaboration through the product delivery phase of the product development lifecycle.

Collaboration during Product Delivery

The second track in the dual track agile approach to product development is the product delivery track.

Once a feature has made it onto the product delivery track, it will have been validated for viability and an understanding that the right feature has been defined — but now needs to be built correctly.

Easy right?

Not without collaboration and validation from your development team, your users, your marketing ream, your design team … well, you get the picture. Just the same as product disovery requires a collaborative validation effort to be successful, so does product delivery.

The difference in the product delivery phase is that the focus becomes less of ‘are we building the right product’ — and more of ‘are we building the product right?’

This means the focus shifts towards ensuring a product will be adopted — in other words, the focus is on the usability of a product and ensuring the features that are developed, are developed in such a way that they will actually be used.

User adoption is driven by understanding what the user needs

Once a product reaches the delivery phase, we know that it is the right product, but that does not always mean it will be developed right. To understand how a product can best be developed to fullfill the needs of the market, it’s necessary to go out and talk to the market.

Collaboration with your users is necessary to understanding what they need. But collaboration is not simply a review activity — to collaborate with customers and users, a relationship needs to be establish and they need to be considered a valuable partnership.

At Enfocus Solutions, we typically discuss collaboration as having three different levels:

  1. Review and Approve: your customers and users provide input on their needs and review and approve a requirement document to ensure their needs are met.
  2. Engage: your customers and users have complete transparency into the project adn will consistently track, review, and contribute their feedback on decisions and items of interest to them.
  3. Partnership: your customers and users are considered a partner and actively participate in the design of a solution that meets their needs.

A partnership is what you should aim for, engagement is a great stepping-stone to achieve it, and review and approval is a good starting point but utlimately does not provide you with the collaboration you need to be successful.

Ideally, when on the product delivery track of the product development lifecycle, your customers have already been engaged in the process from product discovery and have become your partners. They are available to help prioritize the features of a product, participate in the design of the product, beta test the product once a prototype has been complete, and provide you with a transparent validation of the product. If your customers view themselves as your parnters in development, they will soon understand that their participation is just as valuable to them as it is you.

The key to making them partners? Show them that their input will have a direct impact on what they receive in your products. Many times users of a product do not see their input as being impactful on the products they give feedback for. As a result, many users are hesitant to really offer their input into what they are really looking for in a product — and when they do, most times they are compelled to do so out of a feeling of frustration, versus the sense of being a partner contributing towards a better product for all. It’s a mistake for companies not to consider the input of their customers in an influential way — decision-making is all too often done outside the scope of those who have insight into the user experience. There needs to be a balance in developing the user experience of a product and including user input, and motivating product users as partners to deliver that input is part of that balance.

Designing beyond the physical product

There is more to user adoption and utility than making sure it has a friendly physical design and appeal. Companies also need to make sure that there are services and options in place to support customers through the adoption of their product. I know I cannot be alone in saying that many times my decision to purchase or keep a product is driven by the amount of support that I know I will get in using it. There are some companies better at this than others – and I’m not going to name specific examples – but I’m sure we can all think of examples of good customer support experiences, and very bad ones, in our lifetime.

Collaboration with your users should not stop once they have simply purchased and the product. Communicate and build relationships with your market past their purchasing to understand what they need to be successful with the product. Do they need a specifid type of training? Do they need more useful manuals? Do they need a better warranty to feel comfortable keeping the product? Send out surveys, make phone calls, send emails, figure out why users like or or don’t like your products.

In today’s market where innovation is advancing at a rate quicker than ever, products are becoming more complex, consumers have more choices, users have more knowledge and stronger opinions, and product teams are racing against their competitors, collaboration is quickly becoming the foundation upon which all product development processes should be built.

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