A company's product development priorities should change as it increases in size and as its product increases in complexity. It is essential to have a roadmap for how your company will change as it grows.
A roadmap can be a simple guide for how your focus, priorities, and key decisions change when your business hits certain milestones. Companies without a roadmap often struggle because of the increased complexity that comes with sudden growth. These companies can become stuck or struggle to properly scale.
In this post, we are going to discuss the different priorities for each stage of development and growth for software development businesses and how they can sustain growth through each phase.
Importance of Re-Prioritization and Tradeoffs
Product development prioritization is not easy. It involves painful decisions as your business expands. There is added pressure from trying to accomplish a great deal with limited resources and time. Important factors such as quality of the product, speed of development, and cost play a major role when setting priorities for software development. It is highly unlikely that you can optimize for all three factors simultaneously.
Quality, speed, and cost are the chief constraints on the end result of product development. Whether the end result is satisfactory or not depends on how well you shift your emphasis between these constraints, and there is always going to be a tradeoff.
For example, if you are building a product that relies on a faster speed of development and lower costs, then it might lack quality in the end. This could negatively impact your business's reputation in the market and might affect future sales, which is a tradeoff of using this strategy.
Another example could be de-emphasizing development speed in order to improve the quality of the end product. This is an expensive strategy in terms of cost and might lead to burning out before the actual product is released in the market.
Impact of Strategy Shifts on Growth
Priorities should be shifted depending on your organizational capacity and the needs of the client or the end consumer. Depending on the strategy used, scaling a business can be hit or miss. If you end up scaling too soon, you might face organizational limitations that result in a cascading series of failures across your company. If you scale too late, you might miss opportunities within the market. That said, you should generally strive to maximize output without jeopardizing revenues.
In a startup, an entrepreneur can wear multiple hats. Most of their time goes into juggling product development, technical work, sales, and marketing. But as a company scales, priorities change, and the entrepreneur evolves from being an entrepreneur to CEO. They have to be delegate work to different leaders in the organization. These leaders have a responsibility to shift priorities depending on the current scenario without jeopardizing revenue.
Different Product Development Priorities for Each Stage of Growth
Here's how you should shift your priorities at each stage of your company's growth.
A startup is a newly founded company that consists of 1 to 10 employees. The priority of a startup is to validate its own business model and, in the process of validation, product development plays a huge role. At this stage, be clear on what the end result should be and try to avoid changes in the process. Plan ahead as much as possible.
The best option for developing a product and validating your business model is to build an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). Prioritize a strategy of delivering it faster. An MVP helps to deliver a working product on time. It allows you to set priorities with respect to which functionalities to include and which can be overlooked for time being. One way to gather this information is by learning about your users' wants and talking to clients to understand their needs.
Invest in marketing early on to understand the dynamics of how your product should engage consumers. Marketing is a good way to communicate and connect with potential buyers. Investing time and effort in this area is really helpful once you decide to scale your startup.
Another key factor in delivering a product on time at this stage is to strictly follow your initial deadlines. Be diligent about them instead of rushing and disrupt the process of product development.
Optimal distribution of priorities: Build fast and keep costs down – quality comes later.
The growing stage of a company is where the size of the organization increases and is usually between 10 to 50 employees. This is the time to focus on building internal processes that facilitate product growth. These processes include a variety of factors. Investing in hiring the right team and building workflows around them is crucial for a product to properly grow. You have to be selective about whom you hire and what their role is going to be. Be clear with your team in terms of the current foundation of the product as well as the future objectives.
Another good practice for scaling product development is to set up a reliable in-app monetization process. Generating revenue from the existing product is crucial to sustaining product development as well as the business around it. Having an income stream is going to generate more constructive feedback. It also helps you maintain your priorities of where to invest in terms of product development.
Another priority to consider is beginning to define your role in the market and your relationship to competitors. This will help you understand the differences between your product and your competitor's product and what areas you can improve the product such that it attracts more potential buyers and hence, generate an increase in the market share.
Optimal distribution of priorities: Speed and cost are still the top considerations for your small team, but you will want to gradually shift your focus toward new features that add quality and hope that you can offset costs with new monetization streams.
An organization reaches an established stage when the size of the employees increases to somewhere between 50 to 100. Now is the time to study and invest in building an infrastructure to support large-scale user growth. Everyone in the market now considers you as a competitor, and if you want to sustain your business, you must embrace this reality.
Simplifying the process of product development is important. It leads to accurate execution and improved delivery. With the increase in the number of employees, you can now start delegating responsibilities across the organization. Operations must run smoothly and should not disrupt the process of product development. Optimizing your technical infrastructure should also be a priority.
Listening to users and testing out "nice-to-have" features on request is a great way to increase the user base for the application. This makes you become more responsive to user demands and might give you a competitive advantage.
Optimal distribution of priorities: Quality is now the dominant consideration for your product, as you will need to command a strong market share in order to elevate to the next stage of growth. You will also want to get new features into production quickly, so it's okay to be less cost-conscious in order to hit deadlines.
At this stage, an organization has 100+ employees with a large market share. You have to consider your previous priorities and shift them again at this stage. The focus of an organization at this point is to invest in product innovation and future planning to increase revenue. Constant investment to help your team learn new things is one of the ways to build a foundation for scaling up.
Another set of priorities should include improving your standards for product maintenance, performance, and security. At this stage, your user base is quite large, so it's of the utmost importance to provide a smooth experience, eliminate any potential security threats, and improve the performance of your product.
Optimal distribution of priorities: Now that you're established, it's okay to take your foot off the gas and focus on quality first and foremost. You will want to keep development costs predictable in order to ensure that your company can weather sudden market disruptions, so it's fine to release new features at a more relaxed pace.
We've covered how you should establish and then shift your priorities as your company grows. However, there are some exceptions that you may have to deal with in this process. A strategy that might have worked out for someone else might not work for you, so you'll want to keep some amount of flexibility when following a certain strategy. For example, if you are in a startup stage, a shortage of cash might make you want to monetize the application and make it a high priority such that it starts generating a revenue stream.
At Crowdbotics, we're accustomed to preparing product development strategies that ensure maximum success. We offer managed application development support for companies at all stages of growth, and our developers can work as part of your team or take over an entire project for you. Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help support your product's development for sustainable growth.