Sprint to Finish

5 Keys to New Product Development: Sprint to the Finish

Your impact on the market is often directly related to speed. One of the most popular axioms for small businesses right now is, “Ideas matter, but execution is critical.”

 

In other words, your great idea is only as great as your ability to quickly get it to market. Today, technology and markets are changing faster than ever. If you want to stay competitive, you need to know how to adjust, adapt, and create things fast.

With such high stakes for success in a competitive landscape, how does one lead a team to quickly develop and launch products and services that customers will love?

Our company, which makes software for event registration and fundraising, knows this challenge all too well. Not only do we face stiff competition, our market is constantly changing and evolving with new technologies and trends. Yet, our small team of less than 20 people is making it happen and growing with triple digit growth – all without a penny of venture capital.

Our secret is our methodology. Here are five ways our methodology is helping us out-hustle the competition and stay ahead of the market. These disciplines will work on any project of any size. We use them to build tiny, new features that take a week, and we used them to rebuild our entire version of our software that took us more than a year.

What is the single commonality among all these companies?

They all solved their respective problems differently than the established competition. In other words, they all chose to create rather than copy.

1. Stay on mission

As you build great things, inevitably your team will have epiphanies about additional features, ideas, and extensions for your product. The desire will be to devote resources towards exploring them and possibly building them now. These epiphanies can either be game changers or they can be death sentences. Be careful to stay on mission and not allow your team to get diverted for too long on any new idea. If something is truly too good to pass up, appoint a couple of team members, with a strict time limit, to create a proof of concept that would justify further exploration.

2. Resist the temptation to refactor

The longer your project roadmap, the more likely you will face the temptation to refactor previously completed tasks. That’s because your team will discover better techniques, models, and efficiencies as the project progresses. The temptation to refactor previously completed work can derail your development because they can cause a ripple effect throughout your entire project. A refactor in one part can lead to a refactor of every part.

3. Build nice-to-haves last

Every project is filled with nice-to-have features. Some features seem like they are must-haves. But in reality, they can wait. For example, we launched the new version of our software without the ability to request a forget-password link. While not difficult, it was one of many things we could add later or manually do for customers. Not only did hardly anyone notice, we were able to get to market much faster.

4. Remember, done is better than perfect

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn once said, "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late." Come to the realization that your project will never be perfect. It’s better to launch with an imperfect product, because if you wait until it’s perfect, you may have missed your market opportunity.

5. Get to beta fast

Focus on bringing areas of your project to functional states as fast as you can—even if it’s only one small part. Not only does this inject excitement within your team, you can begin testing and exploring with customers. Don’t think of your project as having one finish line; think of it as having dozens of them. As you cross each finish line, you create momentum—a vital ingredient in finishing a project on time and on budget.

These disciplines to your methodology will help you focus on execution and getting your idea to market as fast as possible. It requires an all-team commitment to focusing on what matters most: making ideas happen.

 

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