Am developing a new product. What should i develop first?

We know what we want to build. But we are not sure, what to start with?

This is one of the questions i end up discussing very frequently during my consulting engagements.

Am sure we all agree that there is no straight forward answer to this.

Let us take my favorite example – an eCommerce store. Assume that you are developing an eCommerce application which is going to sell furniture’s.

What are the features one would require?

To sell the furniture, i need a way to
– manage the categories of furniture i am going to sell
– manage the furniture’s in the category
– manage the price for the furniture’s
– manage the orders and fulfill them
– Have a website where users can browse the furniture’s, search for a furniture, view the furniture detail, enter the quantity and place order.
– ….
– ….

Get Started

When i was a developer, if you would have asked me this question on what to start with, i would have said you need a good database design, screens to manage the master data before we can do the eCommerce application.

After burning my hands multiple times with new product development, my current answer would be to build the most important feature from in this list without which the eCommerce store is useless.

Take the Groupon example which Eric Ries talked in his book Lean Start up. Groupon first built their site using a word press blog, maintained those pages on a daily basis, went to market, took the feedback before building the actual website.

The Key here is to look at the pieces in the equation that cannot be removed.

I can maintain my master data even using scripts. But without the eCommerce website (it could even be a blog) you may not be able to sell anything. Start building things which are the core of your system.

Do not waste your time in building things which are not highly important. All those subsidiary features can be built later.

IMHO, The most important role in product development is Product Owner. If you have one, who can do the right prioritization i am sure you will have a successful product.

A Related example:

Start at the epicenter

Happy Learning!!!!

Image courtesy of idea go/


Do you have the right product owner with you?

Most of the product companies have a role called Product Manager (or Vice President, Product Development) who is responsible for the Product Management Functionality.

Typically a Product Manager in a Software Product Company is responsible for
1. Defining the product strategy and Road map. Typically Product Manager’s Conduct Surveys, analyze the current trends of the industry/competitors and decide the road map for the Product.
2. Visualize the Product, Delivering Requirements in Some Format (PRD/MRD/Use Cases/User Stories), Prioritize the Features, Release Planning, Write the Acceptance Criteria.
3. Working with external third parties to assess potential partnerships and licensing opportunities etc…
4. Taking care of the Pre-sales Demonstrations, Meet Potential Customers, Run beta and pilot programs with early-stage products and samples.

When a new software development initiative is made, the Product Manager typically will be made as the Product Owner for the New Product Development (Could be a rewrite of the old product or a new Product).

Even though the Product Manager is responsible for Defining and developing the requirements, most of the times it takes the last priority. Meeting Potential Customers, helping sales team (apart from the strategic planning) becomes more priority than writing requirements. Product Manager’s time is very hard to find and development teams has to wait for his availability. Its justified by the business that we need to have more business so that we can accommodate all these development etc…

After working with product development companies for all these years, this question has come to my mind some time back.

Who is the right person for the Product owner role? Can a Product Manager be the Product Owner? Is it possible for the Product Manager to play both the roles and add value?

In my opinion, a Product Manager cannot be a Product Owner. If you have a Product Manager as the Product Owner, you will definitely understand what i am talking about. I am sure, you are working on one-liners as requirements.

In my opinion the Product Owner is Responsible for the following.
Product Owner is a person who owns the development of the Product. He / She own the Iterations or cycle period, available for the team when required. Primary responsibility is to write stories or requirement in some format and work with the developers and testers to define the acceptance criteria for the stories. He / She should understand technology a bit, so that he will be in a position to understand the technological constraints. Once a feature is complete, the product owner should spend time in verifying the feature and provide his acceptance.

If the Product Owner you have is not doing all the above, its time to look for a new profile. Finally, your whole development team is dependent on this person and his time is more important for the development teams.

Some useful Pointers
Agile Product Owner Vs Enterprise Product Manager
The Product Manager – Role and Responsibilities
How to be THE ULTIMATE Agile Product Team / Agile Product Managers and Agile Product Owners Living Together in Harmony

Happy Reading!!!