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Coping with the never ending cycle of product improvements

Stuart Bailey at Currencycloud offers his tips on the best way to approach the never-ending battle that is product improvement, and explains why Steve Jobs was right in saying that to focus is to “say no to the hundred other good ideas”…

Coping with the never ending cycle of product improvements

We’ve all been there. You look at the 50 possible product improvements on your backlog and don’t even know where to start. Every day valid new product ideas are added to the hopper from customer service agents, sales people and even your chief executive.

One day you decide enough is enough: it’s time for a framework to bring about order. You build a spreadsheet with a sophisticated scoring mechanism. Colleagues embrace the changes; discussions become rational and data-driven. You reach product nirvana.

Except product nirvana doesn’t exist. Prioritising product improvements is an age-old problem. While there are no easy answers, in our experience there are certain things you can do to make your life easier.

Say no

Our starting point is to follow Warren Buffett’s dictum: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

Here at Currencycloud, Product Owners are empowered to say no to new product ideas. This stops product backlogs becoming clagged with features that are unlikely to ever see the light of day. It also has the added benefit of sharpening the focus of our cross-functional product teams.

Test with customers

Before product improvements make it onto the backlog we urge our scrum teams to test their ideas with customers. Like many other high-growth businesses we follow a version of Steve Blank’s Customer Development method. At its core this idea is about testing hypotheses about your product with real customers.

We concentrate on questions such as: ‘Does the customer have a problem that needs to be solved?’ and ‘Does this product improvement idea solve that problem?’ Starting with the problem to be solved ensures you don’t get too far away from creating value for your customers.

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