Through the course of 8+ years, we've been building a portfolio of digital products. As we turn scientific research and industry expertise into scalable products, we see the same patterns repeating time and time again. This article will highlight our core principles when creating new digital product assets.
The software sector has been evolving for many years from bespoke (project-driven) activities towards a continuous (product-driven) delivery model. The essence of the agile movement is the realization that product and business objectives are two sides of the same coin. Modern organization north stars are no longer driven by management opinions but primarily by user engagement, growth metrics and value-driven progress.
Software products should be looked at as digital assets. The more solution-oriented, substantiated and intellectually protected it is, the more revenue it will generate down the line. There is a systematic mechanism in turning innovative ideas into a lovable product version and iterating it towards product-market fit. That's what we do from start to end in partnership with people and organizations of all sizes (SME, spin-offs, scale-ups, corporates, VC).
We believe success lies in the symbiosis of specific expertise with our methodological product delivery approach. Create unique value or go home.
Product principles at the core
Product development is the art of continuously harmonizing 3 dimensions to a problem statement:
- Business dimension: chasing a sensible revenue and impact model
- User dimension: solving the right problems for the right audience
- Technology dimension: a flexible foundation for continuous software delivery
We believe in small teams with a great deal of autonomy to drive the product forward. It’s tempting to start branching out roles and responsibilities, yet there are major efficiency gains in keeping close ranks. Empower people to do what they do best.
How to foster a product culture? Think big, act small.
- Think big when you define the mission statement, be bold in your ambitions
- Act small when you decide on the foundational feature set and value capture. Improving your product 1% each day leads to a 37x improvement
Every product lifecycle has similar stages:
- Ideation: turning a problem worth solving into a plan of action
- Definition: shaping up the functional and technical specifications
- Development: high-paced product delivery operations
- Growth phase: a continuous pursuit of product-market fit with close user involvement
Across our portfolio we’ve worked in multiple industries (healthcare, procurement, education, a.o.) with various go-to-market approaches (B2B, B2C, platform plays, ..). We carry all learnings from the past 8 years with us in any new trajectory we initiate.
You have all cards stacked against you when initiating a new product development trajectory. Relying on a refined methodology is the best assurance to a favorable outcome. It's a base assumption that the product and business model will heavily evolve over time. A short delivery horizon and a flexible roadmap are key.
Most probably you're operating in a broader context in which you'll need to get buy-in from many stakeholders throughout your organization.
- DON'T create a presentation with a 5-year plan, KPI's and a theoretical ROI.
- DO create wireframes, prototypes, diagrams and involve users. Iterate. Validate.
Every team needs to find its own flavor of agile that works for them, but the cadence of concrete production delivery should be steady. Every release should be treated as a step towards product maturity where you balance new feature delivery, documentation and technical debt.
We describe our delivery model in a separate blog post: an operating model that reflects the day to day realities of product delivery.
The old startup paradigm was to build a quick and dirty minimum viable product. With increasing user expectations and ever-stricter regulations, we continuously raise the bar and benchmark industry standards with regards to non-functional quality principles. Quality is not an afterthought, it should be incorporated from day one. We firmly believe that product quality - in all of its dimensions - will win in the long run.
- Information security: correctly dealing with personal data (under GDPR) and organizational security requirements (ISO27001)
- Error monitoring: proactively detecting application errors and prioritizing accordingly.
- Performance monitoring: analyzing infrastructural usage metrics, costs and application loading times.
- Testing: writing end-to-end tests to mimic the entire application usage flow and writing specific unit tests on core back-end logic. We run stress tests to validate if our APIs can handle heavy data loads.
Most of these dimensions come together in the setup of the CI/CD pipelines: checks and balances that every release should run through. An efficient setup of these pipelines assures that the delivery teams can keep up a high pace of deployments while ensuring reliability of those releases.
The process towards product-market fit will vary on a case-by-case basis; you'll know it when it's there. Generally speaking this is the point throughout the process when you know with a fair level of certainty that specific actions will lead to (business) results. As you grow into those operations at scale, your product might be spun off into its own entity and you'll start to structure new dimensions (non-exhaustive):
- Growth marketing / sales: identifying, targeting and converting prospect users
- Business development: strategic alliances with other industry partners
- Customer success: a frictionless onboarding and customer experience
- Automated administrative procedures for billing & payments processes
- Legal: refining the contractual flows and certifications
- Funding: the proper financing mix to fuel the aspired growth
Product development is an adaptive process during which only a single constant remains: users pave the way.
Working in close partnership
We partner with industry experts, research units, ambitious corporates, scale-ups and others alike. We love to go the distance from a complex problem statement towards product-market fit. We work either in a service-based manner (all intellectual property belongs to the client) or in a common venturing model (shared IP) where we allocate seed capital in return for a minority piece of the equity.
With a talented team of 50+ passionate crafts(wo)men, we love to go from zero to one and far beyond. We simply want to build lovable products that will effectively leave their mark.
The proof of the pudding
Please find some in-depth examples on our portfolio page.