Process Team

MichiganLabs’ approach to product strategy: Driving software success

February 12, 2024
MichiganLabs’ approach to product strategy: Driving software success

Too many custom software products fail or aren’t as successful as they could be.

Boston Consulting Group reported that 80% of companies want to accelerate their digital transformation. But, on average, only 30% succeeded in achieving sustainable change.

This rate of failure isn’t necessarily due to deep technical or design challenges. More often than not, it’s because the product lacks alignment with user needs and business objectives.

So how do you position yourself in the 30% of successful digital products?

Start with product strategy.

What is product strategy in custom software development?

Product strategy is a bite-sized chunk of work that produces a shared understanding between a company and their digital product partner. This collaborative engagement is designed to clearly outline the business and user problem, then identify a path toward solving it.

Product strategy:

  • Ensures your software development directly connects to your business objectives, target users, and KPIs,

  • Keeps everyone focused on the core goals, decreasing the risk of scope creep,

  • And reduces delays, overspending, and products that miss the mark for customers or staff.

In the often-used analogy of software development being like building a custom home, product strategy is the consultation held with architects and designers. It’s incredibly necessary to ensure you know what you’re building and why.

Unfortunately, many companies skip this step in a rush to build a tangible product. And this is why too many digital products fail to deliver the desired return on investment.

If you’re exploring product strategy on your own or with your team, start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. Why am I pursuing a digital product? Am I aiming to streamline operations, improve customer experience, or enter new markets?

  2. What specific steps should I take to achieve my objectives? For example, do I need to prioritize user research, define key features, or create a comprehensive roadmap for development?

  3. How can I effectively implement this transformation? Communicate clearly with users about the benefits of the new digital product, engage them in the planning process, and commit to continuously gathering their feedback to ensure it meets their needs effectively.

If you’re looking for expert guidance on this all-important product strategy phase, we can help!

Principal consultants at MichiganLabs can collaborate with you on product strategy.

We believe in building custom software like we’d want it built for us. In other words, it’s our goal to deliver strategic, meaningful, and long-lasting value as your digital product partner.

That’s why we love engaging in product strategy work with clients. Our principal consultants can guide you through this process.

What does a product strategy engagement look like? While we adapt to each client’s unique needs, these are the general phases:

  • Kick-off: We always start by getting to know one another and hearing your vision.

  • Information-gathering: Relying on your deep industry knowledge and our product development expertise, we’ll ask you tons of questions to help drive clarity and alignment among your team. We’ll conduct detailed research, return with more questions, and continue this iterative cycle.

  • Product strategy report: We’ll deliver a clear summary of our insights and possible solutions for your business and user problem(s). You’ll receive an actionable roadmap toward design and development of your custom software solution.

For example, we worked with a client who operated a mobile app that delivered content. Through the information-gathering phase, we clarified that their business needs were modernization of the app and securing a lower cost for their hosting solution. The user needs included quicker loading speed and the ability to more easily navigate the content.

We provided this client:

  • A cost/benefit assessment for the hosting options,

  • Opportunities to improve user retention and engagement,

  • And an estimated cost and timeline for the development of these proposed solutions.

Product strategy takes a high-level vision and makes it achievable. And, most importantly, it significantly increases your opportunity to land within that 30% of successful custom software products!

Key questions to ask before leaving the product strategy phase

If you’re going to invest in custom software development, don’t neglect the product strategy step.

Can you answer yes to these questions?

  • Have you defined the overarching purpose of your digital product?

  • Have you talked with current or potential users to understand their pain points?

  • Have you connected the digital product into your overall business strategy?

  • Is your leadership aligned on the resources needed to invest in custom software?

  • Do you have a transparent roadmap that prioritizes deliverables and has a clear MVP?

Michigan Software Labs’ people-first approach

This is one of a four-part series about MichiganLabs’ people-first approach to custom software development.

Curious what it would look like to work with the rest of a MichiganLabs project team? Explore the other articles in this series:

Ready to discuss your custom software idea? Let’s schedule a discovery conversation!

Nicole Zwiers
Nicole Zwiers
Marketing Lead

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