In the first part of this series, I discussed listening
to your market and understanding, ‘what keeps your customers up at night.’ The second part, discussed understanding who your customers are, as well as who they are not. For this last part of a high-level discussion, let’s look at why a plan is important.
Build a Plan
Do only a little digging, and you will find oceans of content (books, articles, courses, webinars, etc.) on why you need to develop a plan. The topic itself may make you want to simply hit the Back button in your browser.
To keep it simple, there are two real values to creating a plan. Understanding and keeping on track. Here’s what I mean…
The plan underlying your product should seek to answer some basic questions:
Clearly define the offering (product or service)
- What must it do?
- How must it do it?
- Where is it done?
- When is it done?
Understand what it is not
- What must it not do (if only for now)?
- How should it not be done?
- Why not?
How you will get there
- What resources are needed?
- Can you access the required resources?
- How long will it take (and will the need still exist)
The process of outlining your plan, and then answering the questions, will drive you to more fully understand what you are doing. This is true regardless of how simple, or complex, your plan.
Next is keeping yourself on track. Once you have developed a plan it sets before you a path to follow. As I mentioned in part 2, you will frequently be challenged to dilute your focus (go off course). The plan lets you know whether, on a trip from New York to Los Angeles, whether a side trip to Tampa is acceptable or not.
Perhaps the airline analogy’s not a really good one. If you travel enough, sooner or later you will find yourself in Tampa, on the way from NY to LA. But what will happen, all too frequently, is a call from a customer or salesperson demanding additional new features to your product. Your plan, the route to fruition, gives you a frame work for saying Yes, or No.
Good Enough Trumps Perfect
There is the age old argument between releasing early (but light on features, or of lesser quality) versus later (with more features, better quality). Whatever you choose, you need to get a product to market and sooner is almost always better than later.
The early|late argument will always haunt you. Accept that reality, recognize it as a necessary truth, and get moving.
- Know what you must have
- Get something out there
- Collect feedback
- Adjust as necessary
Keep a Grip on Scope
No plan is absolute. The world, the market, changes and so should you. So be willing to adjust your plan. Collecting feedback is important. Feedback helps you validate your idea, your plan, and helps make sure your product will continue to meet the market’s needs. The sooner you learn what isn’t working, the sooner you make adjustments so it does.
But, be careful to avoid the dreaded, evil, feature creep. Feature creep is the result of an uncontrolled or poorly controlled product definition. If you keep on adding features, you will never ‘finish’ anything. Tight focus on what you need to achieve if you want to deliver your product (or service) before your resources are spent.
Throughout this series there have been a handful of recurring themes:
- Listen to your customers; understand what keeps them up at night?
- Know who your customers are (not); avoid being distracted
- Have a plan, make adjustments, but stay on target