Reverse Engineering Your New Product
Reverse engineering product development
Whether you are the member of a small team at a large organization or part of a small startup, creating solutions that meet the needs of your customers requires sustained and unambiguous customer focus. In order to accomplish this, working with the end in mind or reverse engineering your new product or service, can be a highly effective way to create a minimally viable product and substantially shorten the product development lifecycle.
Real Artists Ship. Reverse engineering, or user-centered design, is all about attaining a consensual and clear picture about what is being built and getting to it. While business plans have their place, this is an excellent method for nimble teams ready to cut through the red tape and start creating. These are the basic steps.
- First, write your Press Release. Explaining your new product or service in press release form, when done properly, forces you to think simply and describe features and benefits plainly. Good press releases focus on three elements; accuracy, newsworthiness, and illustration and as such, your press release should describe candidly what the product does and why it exists. Similar to setting life goals by first writing your eulogy (a little morbid I know; but effective!), writing a press release upfront clarifies how you want to convey your service to the world as opposed to the insider point of view. It’s not good design if it doesn’t sell.
- Write up your FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). Do your user requirements reflect your customer’s needs? Once you’ve written your press release hand it over to your spouse, colleagues, the sales team, close customers, and anyone else willing to give it a read and ask you some questions about it. Their questions will give you the opportunity to think through things you might have never considered as an insider, and will allow you to go on to provide greater detail about how the product will work and what value it will deliver.
- Define the customer experience. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and attempt to answer the question; “what are all of the different ways I might use this product?” For Web and mobile applications, mock up each screen the user will see when completing different actions. For professional services or retail products, consider creating use cases and sample case studies for how the service might solve a particular problem. Your goal here is to tell stories of how your customer is solving a problem using your product.
Once you have completed the steps of creating a press release, writing up an FAQ, and outlining a couple of case studies, (coincidentally these are all sales tools you will need to develop anyway), you will be amazed at how much clearer you and your team will be when building your new product. Much how a contract serves to ensure everyone is on the same page, these steps eliminate most of the confusion and ambiguity that can come with the traditional product development process and create a shared vision everyone can grasp.