Time to market is an extremely important factor when it comes to product success. How quickly can you build, refine, test and roll out a product? Can you do it before a competitor does? To counter rapid progress from your competitors, your organisation must be able to speed up product delivery as quickly as possible.
We see many organisations try to do it themselves, and they usually run into trouble. One mistake we often come across is when a company rushes headfirst into a product development project without a clear idea of the exact problem they are aiming to solve and for whom.
A common mis-step is to start by looking for a development bodyshop that can quickly hack together a minimum viable product. In both cases, the mistake is leaping straight into the software development phase without a clear view of the problem to be solved, the customer segment, the unique value proposition of your solution and your go-to-market approach. Without answering these key questions market success is unlikely. Without a clear product strategy, you’ll find that costs quickly blow out and any time advantage you could have gained evaporates.
With these challenges in mind, there are a few proven strategies Propel has developed that help sidestep the common issues we see which prevent you from gaining traction when you need to accelerate. The following is your high-level guide for accelerating product delivery effectively, and efficiently.
The 6 key strategies for accelerating product delivery
1. Don’t burn out your existing managers
While you're thinking about taking on the adventure to capture an attractive new market opportunity, your managers are likely already at their managerial capacity. You can’t just add more people to a project and expect your managers to handle managing the new team members on top of their current workload. You need a sustainable way to add horsepower to your development efforts without burning out your existing managers. That means you need to be able to scale the ability of your managers and leaders to manage teams in proportion to your growing resources.
Software development is a time and cost-intensive enterprise, and bigger teams mean bigger spend. The best way to reduce that spend is to support your managers with the right mix of skilled roles—e.g. product management, engineering, quality assurance, UX—to ensure that the work being done is focused, and minimal effort is misdirected or wasted.
2. Identify the right areas to accelerate
Accept that some parts of the business will not yet be ready to accelerate. You need to focus on the part of the business that is best positioned to accelerate without slowing down the others. For example, many businesses have an older core of technology that’s only well understood by a small number of senior staff. The higher degree of difficulty involved in accelerating an older tech stack means it’s less fruitful to start your acceleration efforts in the area of code that is least understood.
Instead, it is usually more effective to expose specific functional elements of the core first, enabling related parts of the business to move faster. For example, exposing core APIs to open up new ways for the business to engage with the data held there.
At Propel Ventures, we have a pedigree of highly experienced technical process managers, skilled at identifying the optimum candidate pieces of work ripe for acceleration. We start by considering the technology used, the client’s organisational structure, and the business opportunity involved, then sketch out a roadmap for accelerating by area, in stages.
3. Ensure your scaling efforts focus on the right goals
Acceleration is most effective when it’s focused on aspects of the business where immediate and obvious value is clearly visible. A clear business case with a discrete deliverable to aim for is a great place to start your acceleration journey. For example, we recently developed a tablet app for a client, and the delivery of the app was a precondition for a lucrative renewal of the annual license fee for a large client. Having clarity around the business objective enabled us to reach the goal more quickly and efficiently, with great outcomes for the end user and our client.
4. Strike the right deal
It can be challenging to iron out the right deal with your product development partner, but only if you haven’t done the appropriate groundwork. If the business and customer problem is clear, the APIs to deliver are available, and the development pathway obvious, it's a lot easier to align incentives with your development partner in commercial terms. Signing a fixed price deal to deliver specific functionality, with an agreed level of customer satisfaction, will strongly align your interests with those of your development partner.
When the mission is larger, more innovative or experimental, and the journey is more likely to vary, a time and materials arrangement is likely to work best. Any agreement should have the appropriate level of governance and agreed milestones to track progress.
Since Propel is founder-owned and led, we can take a more flexible approach to the typical commercial relationship. We like to partner with our clients, sharing the risk of delivery and aligning our interests with theirs. That means while we can always work with you on a daily rate, we prefer to aim for the same goal that you have.
5. Accelerate with the right governance
Always make sure you have the right governance mechanisms in place. This makes sure stakeholders have input and can course-correct if necessary. Lightweight check-in meetings with stakeholders to get timely feedback and identify issues early are also essential to nip any problems in the bud. Propel teams prefer to work alongside the existing practices and rituals of your in-house teams. This allows us to share our way of working and ensure that the applications we are developing are in accordance with your standards, can co-exist in your technology stack and will stay supportable long after the initial acceleration to bring them to life.
6. Accelerate with a tight belt too
The traditional approach to scaling through outsourcing or augmenting teams may look financially attractive at first glance, but comes with a host of micro-decisions and hidden costs that can quickly spiral out of control and crash your acceleration efforts. This is not due to technical capability or intent; it's simply due to the nature of the process and the product managerial oversight involved.
Propel’s strategic development partnership approach with intact product teams has been developed specifically to address this problem and keep the cost of development down. The proof is in the pudding: Propel has delivered 8 of our last 9 projects on time and all of them on budget (one project ran for 19.5 months instead of the estimated 18, however the project was still delivered on budget because Propel picked up the cost for the final 1.5 months).
These 6 strategies are built into Propel’s way of working
With Propel as a strategic partner, your product and development leaders won’t lose control of the product or development process. Instead, their role becomes one of managing the strategy, development, and quality standards that their teams can then follow. Your leaders can be confident that the right product is developed to the right standards, while Propel product leaders and teams manage the day to day of your product development.
Every one of the strategies outlined above are powerful ways to accelerate your product delivery, while keeping a tight grip on all the factors that can cause cost blowouts or delays. Talk to us about how we can support your project and help you accelerate when and where it’s needed most.