The 3 pitfalls of not understanding your product
The excitement around a new idea and the endless possibilities it represents is intoxicating. There are few things more thrilling than seeing a clear path to a new opportunity and wanting to dive headfirst into the deep end. The desire to contact a developer and start building can be impossible to resist, particularly with the fear of someone stealing your idea or innocently stumbling upon it. Despite the excitement and the fear of missing an opportunity, we would beg you to take a step back. Jumping into development without fully understanding your product is a dramatic waste of time and money.
Development is challenging, it’s a battle of communication and an expectation management game. The single greatest challenge of any development is communicating your idea in a way that makes sense to an engineer. Not only do you need to communicate the high level concept, but you also need to be specific when it comes to functionality and user experience. When you can’t communicate the specifics of your vision, the development of your product is doomed for failure.
Ambiguity, undefined expectations, wasted money and missing the mark
Developers have a difficult job; their first responsibility is understanding what you want, they then must create a roadmap to determine how to deliver that product, and then they must execute. When you are unclear and ambiguous about what you want, it directly effects the overall understanding your developer has, this then impacts how they choose to plan your product and results in the execution of something that completely misses the mark.
When you only think about your product from a “big picture” perspective, you leave the details to your developer and release control of how the final product will turn out. If you’re not willing to define and communicate the “how” you leave the most important aspects of your technology to chance.
One of the most common requests we get is “I want to build an application like Uber for [insert generic idea].” These requests are difficult because our client has a global idea without the slightest understanding of logistics or basic functionality that’s needed. A failure to understand the “how” results in a functional inability to drive and manage your development.
Most entrepreneurs with a great idea don’t fully realize the impact of this ambiguity until they’ve spent most of their budget and are past the point of return. You must know your product inside and out, you must lead your development, and you must reject the tendency to leave the details to chance.
Frustrations and Team Turnover
Disorganized and undefined developments typically hit a phase where the CEO and the engineering team reach a breaking point. In these circumstances, its common for the CEO to find a new development team. Few people understand and realize that turning over your project and codebase to a new team with no prior involvement is a catastrophic mistake and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
When a development team receives an incomplete code base and is asked to “finish it,” you’re asking them to write complete chapters of a book without an understanding of the plot. The natural outcome in this circumstance is to push forward by placing band aids and temporary patches on everything they don’t understand. This unavoidable reality significantly impacts the quality of your code. When your code is trash, the ability to scale, expand and attract future talent is limited.
Development is hard enough, when you break continuity and have a revolving door of developers working on your core product, you’re left with a patchwork of spotty code. CEOs should do everything in their power to retain their core team until their MVP is complete. There is nothing wrong with changing developers in and out, but you want to do so in a logical fashion. Placing downward pressure on an entire team and whipping the slate clean should be avoided at all costs.
An inability to run your business
Creating, managing, and running a business that’s rooted in a technical product can be a difficult task. Not understanding the in’s and outs of your product make that task so much harder. Many aspiring technology entrepreneurs fail to realize the importance of understanding their product until its to late.
If you don’t understand and clearly define how a customer should move through your application, you miss the opportunity to optimize that process. Neglecting something that seems basic and unimportant becomes a significant issue when users don’t come back and continue to use your product. Leaving to these types of details to someone who doesn’t understand the context of your business or vision removes any competitive advantage you may have had.
You are the founder, the CEO, and CTO, you must not only cast the vision for your product, but you must understand your product. If the technical side of things is scary, work with a firm like Bootstrap that teaches the basics through a planning phase. You don’t have to have everything figured out at the start, but you have to be willing to learn and take the time to design your product so that you can lead with confidence. Understand your product, know your product, and don’t stop!