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Product Development Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Marathon runners

On your marks…

Product development can often seem like a race. Whether a race to corner an emerging or untapped market or just a race to get something out before you lose sight of the goal. And, like any great endeavor, you should know what you’re getting yourself into before you set foot on the starting line. You should map out and plan your checkpoints in advance. If you want a product that endures, you’ll need to keep in mind that the release is just the first leg. If you start off at a sprint you could lose your way or run out of steam before you’re done.

Get set…

The first leg of digital product development, like any race, is research. Get to know the route. Who are you racing against? What are the track conditions? Do you have sponsorship? How are you getting compensated? Without research and planning, you can lose time by taking a wrong turn or passing up a checkpoint without knowing when the next one is coming. You also don’t want to go up against a ringer. Planning for obstacles and competition is a big part of ensuring your success.

And we’re off!

Once you’ve done your research, and you have a plan for each leg of the race, all that’s left to do is start running. The first few steps off the line need to be precisely aimed at the first checkpoint. The first checkpoint in digital product development is building a proof of concept or prototype. Whether your digital product is a mobile application or a web-based property or service, getting something into the hands of your target audience is critical. All your research and planning has brought you to this, but once you’re in the press you need to pay attention to all the input and feedback from the crowd. This first checkpoint is where you can assess your strategy, and adjust, or even decide that this race isn’t for you. You don’t want to exhaust yourself over a race you have no chance of winning.

Halfway point

The halfway point for this race is the full release of your MVP (minimum viable product) to the market. You’ve done it! It’s all downhill from here right? Well, now you have to contend with the forces of entropy that can drag any runner down. For mobile applications, you have software updates as well as new devices coming out to account for. For a web-based property or service, you have constant security reviews and systems and hosting maintenance. For both, you have end-user support, documentation, and bug-fixing and feature enhancement. The first half of this race can be a blur. The second half can seem like a slog. But, if you’ve planned it out and have a strategy in place to manage your resources, you’ll make it.

Where’s the finish line?

You’ve got a product out in the market. You’ve got a support team setup and support documents written for end-user support. There’s a monetization strategy in place making your effort all worth it, but you’re still running. The reality is that embarking down the path of becoming a digital product owner doesn’t end with a finish line and a trophy. At best it’s another checkpoint. You can engage with talented people to support you, and treat it as a relay. You can take it past the checkpoint and hand the baton to someone you trust to keep you in the running, but the race never really ends. But if you know that going into it, you won’t exhaust yourself too early to make it to the front of the pack.

It all comes down to endurance. Set a steady pace, and keep your eyes looking ahead, focus on providing value to your customers and you’ll stay in the race for the long haul.

Richie Harris