Effective Product Development Is Not About Products At All

To round of six months of 2022, here’s something to think about. Late last year I was invited by TiE Mumbai to deliver a talk on the topic of Value Proposition to Value Delivery as part of their Start up to IPO series. This post is an extension of that talk.

Product design and development has traditionally been the domain of engineers. We take pride in our technical capabilities and how we apply our knowledge, expertise and experience to invent new and cool things (products). Good technology and knowledge of it are core to developing products that will function as intended. But, that’s the thing. They function as intended by the engineers, who design and develop these products. Don’t get me wrong, product development, or rather, engineering driven product development is one of the core offerings of Equitus Engineering Limited, and we’re not ashamed of calling it that. However, there are a few subtle differences. Let me explain three of those.

1. Core Interpretation of a Product
Our basic interpretation of a product is that it has a certain utility. A product, for us, is different things. It is a physical product that you can touch, feel, hold, lift and so forth (soft-drink containers, valves, components, parts and all physical products). It is also a process which defines and determines a standardised way of doing something, in which case, you cannot touch, hold or lift, but you can still see it graphically, and feel its effect based on what it does, when applied correctly or wrongly (manufacturing logic diagram, assembly process, factory layouts) . It is also an experience you can go through (a training course, innovation workshop, a queue). Based on what it refers to, it has to serve a purpose.

2. The Purpose of a Product
The purpose of a product is to serve as intended. For example, a soft drink container’s basic purpose is to contain the soft drink during transportation, storage and consumption, and to provide access to the drink only when intended. On top of it, the aesthetics of the container container reflect and evoke numerous feelings to the consumer. The way the container is designed, made and recycled serve a purpose of encouraging sustainable practices. Similarly, the basic purpose of a process is to establish, and improve upon, a standardised way of accomplishing a task. And the purpose of a training course is to provide the trainees knowledge about the subject matter they are trained in. Different products mentioned here are serving different purposes, but have something in common. They are providing a solution.

3. Product as a Solution
So, regardless of what a product is, and what purpose it serves, any given product has to offer a solution. A solution needn’t necessarily be to a problem. It can also mean, improving status quo. The world is abundant with such products that solve problems, improve status quo and even go to the extent of creating a need that they eventually fulfil. The focus of the product development process for us has always been on the solution for the customer than specific products themselves. By focusing on providing solutions to customers, or priority shifts from being product-centric to solution-centric. Let us take the example of a soft drink container. A container can be a bottle made of glass or plastic, a can made of aluminium or even a flexible plastic bag. By focusing on the purpose of holding soft drinks and providing a solution to this, our options open up. The range of possibilities increase, and therefore the quality of the end-solution also increases. The bottom line here is, focus on the solution, the product will take shape without too much effort!

To summarise this post here are three things:
1. A product can be anything from physical products to processes and experiences
2. Products must have a purpose to serve
3. Changing the focus from product-centric to solution-centric will result in better products

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