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If You Build It, Will They Use It?
It's a question that's undoubtedly on the minds of product developers. Every growth-minded company wants to innovate and improve the value and usability of its products. If your company isn't leveraging digital product development or doing so inconsistently, it's time to rethink how your business approaches product development. Evolving your products is imperative to long-term viability. Now more than ever, digital product development is critical to these organizations.
And we want to offer insights on why.
What Is Digital Product Development?
Digital product development is a process that employs agile methodologies to deliver products rapidly while ensuring regular testing and iterating based on user input. The output is a digital product—desktop or mobile apps, Software as a Service (SaaS), and other related assets. Its goal is to improve the User Experience (UX) on a technology platform.
Because this approach focuses on UX and user input, it's easy to see why it's valuable. UX and user need quickly evolve, leaving software providers to reinvent and redefine their products.
Why Is Digital Product Development More Important than Ever?
Embracing digital product development drives many benefits for organizations and the users of their products. It's not a novel approach, but adoption certainly isn't 100%. But why now? Why should organizations transition to agile frameworks to reimagine product development? Let's find out why you must consider digital product development:
Companies Must Respond to User Input Quickly
Traditional development processes are slow and not responsive. Continuous improvement of the product is paramount to keeping users happy and satisfied. Staying relevant and in sync with user needs is a principle of any successful company. Users have high expectations around personalization and tailored solutions. Promptly meeting these new demands is only possible with digital product development.
Your Competitors Are Doing It
Don't let the competition out-innovate you and usurp your market share. New upstarts enter your industry daily, most likely leveraging digital product development. If you lag, they'll become more attractive to your customers. Sustain your competitive edge by being first to market with updates or new technologies, achievable with digital product development.
Businesses Need to Jumpstart Revenue
Launching or improving a new product in an uncertain economic climate is smart. It's not without its challenges. The push to deploy is urgent, primarily if it fulfills a specific new need caused by business-altering impacts like the pandemic.
Look at the pivots the dining, hospitality, education, and retail industries have made to meet new needs and find new revenue streams. Digital product development is faster and more amiable in getting products to market.
All these reasons suggest urgency; however, introducing it into your organization requires a framework of processes and a strategic approach. We'll tackle these next.
What is the Product Development Process?
Like any development process, there are stages. It's a product life cycle, as it never actually stops. Software products are rarely ever done unless they become sunset. Here's a breakdown of the process.
Every product starts with an idea. However, not all ideas work. In fact, 90% of startups fail. Not every company using digital product development is a startup, but they think like one to preserve innovation.
The point is that it takes substantial work to get an idea to market. The best approach to developing something viable is by defining the product's feasibility. This also applies to existing products as you begin to enhance them.
In ideation, stakeholders should define critical areas:
- Vision: What is the potential for your product in the long term?
- Strategy: Your strategy should follow a transparent implementation and deployment plan. It should include a product roadmap and value proposition, not be solely based on intangibles like inspiration.
- User needs: Your product design should solve customers' issues and problems. Thus, when researching, find out about the customer needs and concerns and plan accordingly.
- Research and analysis: In this step, organizations must understand the audience, review competitors, and estimate the market.
- Budget: What funding is available for the product now and in the future?
- Proof of concept: This component is vital as it defines whether a company can build a product from the design.
- Wireframing and Sketching: After you're done with ideation, research, strategy, mission, and concept, discuss with experts the initial sketch and ask how it will look like to them, considering the success and failure rate. Draft any initial drawings to develop a rough draft that you can redesign and develop later with a better focus.
Design and Development
If a business successfully navigates ideation, design and development are the next stop.
- Design: Consider these questions in mind before you initiate the prototype development. Ask how this would look to the customer. What should be infrastructure and visual architecture? If it is going to be a digital product, ask whether it will have some old unique look or an advanced interface.
- Prototyping: In this phase, it's time to welcome UI (user interface) and UX. A prototype is an asset that requires feedback. This feedback can be from internal stakeholders and early users.
- Pilot testing: Based on the feedback from prototyping, developers will tweak and improve the product before it goes into beta release.
- Alpha or beta release: The alpha release is for internal testing. Then some specific chosen users receive the beta release. In this phase, developers receive more insights on the UX and work out any remaining bugs they obtain from the users' feedback using the beta product.
- MVP (minimum viable product): This product version is critical to idea validation. It can be an actual working prototype or visualization. It's time to define the must-have features and functions for user adoption.
- QA (quality assurance): Before release, more testing is necessary. Automating as much of the testing as possible is a smart move. It reduces time, can be more accurate than human testing, and is central to the agile framework.
Release, Iteration, and Growth
As noted, digital product development is a cycle. The steps above relate to new product development but are critical in iterations. Continuing with new versions requires an eye on growth strategies as well.
- Go to market: Developing your go-to-market plan requires a pre-launch strategy. How will you attract users to your new product? This type of strategy requires an omnichannel approach to include social media, email marketing, content marketing, influencer campaigns, video, and paid ads.
- Continuous development and evolution: Development doesn't stop after go-to-market. The product is maturing, and companies hear more from their users. User feedback and changing landscapes result in updates, improved security, performance, accessibility, building new features, and enhancing UX.
- Maintenance: Last but not least, maintenance and support are two of the crucial processes that last till the product lasts. Though these are not the most exciting part of your digital product development phase, it needs much time and requires a high budget. Launching a product in the market is easy, but maintaining the quality concerning evolving customer demands, competitive market, and business growth is hard. Thus, plan ahead of the maintenance and support techniques, the budget, and the framework for carrying out such tasks, keeping in mind the business continuity.
Digital Product Development and Agile
Agile software development requires a fast and flexible approach to change. It's a framework that embraces change. While being agile has always been something a company should strive for, now it's a necessity. Products cannot remain static when the market looks different every day.
Agile breaks down the development cycle into iterations. Each task or feature is an iteration. It's lighter on documentation (but not the elimination of it), and heavier on communication and collaboration.
Agile should undoubtedly be in the conversation for any business that wants to master digital product development. Leveraging it could be the answer to continually delivering digital products that meet user needs.
What are the Benefits of Digital Product Development?
In laying out the case for agile development, your organization can see the advantages of such an approach. But what are the tangible benefits of digital product development? Have a look at a few benefits of digital product development below:
Increase in Efficiency
Digital product development can be essential to efficiency in workflows and iterations. The Digital Product Development 2025 report by PwC found that it increases efficiency by 19%.
Reduced Time to Market
All developers have hard deadlines to meet to go to market. Hitting deadlines faster is more manageable with digital product development. Per the study noted above by PwC, it reduces time by 17%. This boost is especially critical in a rapidly changing market.
Every company is cost sensitive. More are so now, with cuts across the board. If businesses want to remain relevant, products must evolve. Now it's about doing so with fewer costs. Digital product development can reduce production costs by 13%, as per PwC.
Nobody wants to send a product to market with bugs and issues. The focus on testing and iterating is a solid approach to finding and fixing errors before customers begin to use it. This continuous testing and revising results in application launches with a reduced failure rate.
Achieving Customer-Centric Products
Every business should be customer-centric. However, that's not always easy to do. Digital product development via agile practices is part of your company's DNA. When it's pervasive and valued, it's the foundation for all your development activities.
Digital Product Development Use Cases
Digital product development isn't just for SaaS companies. It fits the needs of many businesses that want to produce digital assets. Organizations in almost any field can leverage digital product development to achieve their goals and support their audience.
Playbill Uses Digitization to Tap into Education Market
One example of a business not in the software landscape embracing digital product development is Playbill. Playbill, known for its yellow booklets, has always been an innovator in digital applications. The company's goal was to develop a digital database of its catalog that could be accessible to students, parents, and educators.
The solution was to create PlaybillEDU. The new database allows users to search for information in an intuitive web-based application. It's user-friendly and can sustain high volume traffic without issue.
Agile Teams Deliver Digital Solutions for XPO Logistics
XPO Logistics, a global logistics company, needed a modern technology solution for their Last Miles Logistics Division, which provided same-day delivery options for retailers. The volume of orders impacted the company's ability to make those timelines.
To resolve it, standard integration with POS platforms was the first step. Then three agile teams addressed integrating systems with Icreon's middleware architecture. The teams also built a shared library of interfaces to enable other vendors to leverage our middleware.
This use case illustrates how digital product development is never complete. The previous solutions of XPO were no longer viable. Digital innovation was necessary to meet their goals.
Trends in Digital Product Development: The Right Now Motivators
This post has several reasons why digital product development is so critical. Most of that does relate to running a business during the pandemic. Let's look at the "right now" motivators.
Changing Business Models
Several trends relate to changing business models. First, you have more distributed teams due to remote work. This only means you rely on technology to communicate and collaborate instead of being face to face. It doesn't necessarily impact the ability to develop products.
Users Need New Features
Customer requirements keep on changing based on their needs and trends. Similarly, business strategies that are most often used are much different now than in the past as the markets keep evolving and trends have become more dynamic. When the way people work, and when the users' needs evolve, the technology must also evolve.
Security and Compliance
Any company has concerns with security and compliance, even non-regulated industries. Your customers' data on your platforms is a huge asset to them. The threat of hacks, cyber-attacks, and ransomware is only trending up, meaning no digital asset is safe from it. Factor in new compliance regulations like the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), and many applications will need a fresh look to ensure data is private and secure.
Infusing Advanced Technology
Digital products now leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). AI and ML are part of data-driven development and can be a huge advantage for products in a competitive market. Integrating these technologies into products drives enormous value.
Consider something as simple as chatbots. Chatbots can be AI-powered and have the ability to learn from machine learning technology. Users like chatbots as well for quick answers, primarily digital natives.
Are You Optimizing Digital Product Development?
Digital innovation isn't slowing down. It's ripe with evolution. To stay ahead, your organization should consider digital product development. Such an approach can enable innovation and better experiences for users.
You don't have to take this journey solo. We can help. Our agile teams and digital growth experts can facilitate change.
In the journey of digital product development, it is essential to have the bigger picture and insights on what you need to do to move forward seamlessly. Evaluate this with our Digital Maturity Assessment that powers growth, innovation, and efficiency.