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Digital Product Development Is More Important Than Ever

If you build it, will they use it? It’s a question that’s certainly on the minds of product developers. Every growth-minded company wants to innovate and improve the value and usability of its products. If you’re 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 so valuable right now. UX and user needs are quickly evolving, 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?

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 really 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 every day, and they are most likely leveraging digital product development. If you lag behind, 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 actually a smart move. It’s not without its challenges. The push to deploy is urgent, especially 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 had to make to meet new needs and find new revenue streams. Digital product development is faster and more amiable to 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.

Ideation

Every product starts with an idea. 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 applies to existing products as well, as you begin to enhance them.

In ideation, stakeholders should define key areas:

  • Vision: What is the potential for your product in the long term?

  • Strategy: Your strategy should follow a clear implementation and deployment plan. It should include a product roadmap and value proposition, not be solely based intangibles, like inspiration.

  • Research and analysis: In this step, organizations need to 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 extremely vital, as it defines if a company can build a product from the design.

Design and Development

If a business successfully navigates ideation, design and development are the next stop. 

  • 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 specially chosen users receive the beta release. In this phase, developers receive more insights on the UX and work out any remaining bugs.

  • MVP (minimum viable product): This version of the product is critical to idea validation. It can be an actual working prototype or visualization. It’s the 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 the time, can be more accurate than just 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 also 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 marketing 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. Now, 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.

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), heavier on communication and collaboration.  

Agile is much more than a methodology. It eschews a traditional framework and mindsets. It’s really a philosophy—one that provides modern businesses a way to pivot. 

For any business that wants to master digital product development, agile should certainly be in the conversation. 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 clearly see the advantages of such an approach. But what are the tangible benefits of digital product development?

Increasing Efficiency

Digital product development can be essential to efficiency in workflows and iterations. A study from PwC found that it increases efficiency by 19%.

Reducing 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, it reduces time by 17%. This boost is especially critical in a rapidly changing market.

Decreasing Costs

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 product costs by 13%.

Fewer Failures

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.  

Achieving Customer-Centric Products

Every business should be customer-centric. However, that’s not always easy to do. Digital product development via agile practices makes this 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 software companies. It fits the needs of many businesses that want to produce digital assets. Organizations in almost any vertical can leverage digital product development to achieve their goals and support their audience.

Playbill Uses Digitization to Tap into Education Market

One example of 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 was impacting 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 the integration of systems with Icreon’s middleware architecture. The teams also built a common 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 inferences about why digital product development is so critical right now. Most of that does relate to running a business in 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.

The second concern is that organizations are reducing their workforce—another consequence of COVID-19. Companies have to do more with less, which makes outsourcing digital product development to a digital innovation agency. Doing so can save considerable time and money, while also assuring the best talent and tools are in place.

Users Need New Features

Another trend with ramifications from COVID-19 is that users need new features. Customer requirements are changing because their business is much different now than it was at the beginning of 2020. When the way people work evolves, the technology they use must as well.

Security and Compliance

Any company has concerns with security and compliance, even non-regulated industries. The data your customers hold 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 are now leveraging 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 huge value. 

Consider something as simple as chatbots are your applications to interact with users. Chatbots can be AI-powered and learn. Users like chatbots as well for quick answers, especially 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. Contact us today to learn more. 

Questions?