Planning for a Startup's Continuous Product/Service Improvement

Once you get to the MVP (Minimally Viable Product), it’s not time yet to relax. You’ve got to keep working through how your product development is going to evolve. But first, let’s celebrate the successes - your startup has validated that the product fits the market, and the design team has produced an MVP to get customer feedback. Most likely, you also have a good mental map of next steps. 

Then the real world hits. There is a big demo for a tradeshow, or one make-or-break customer that the startup desperately needs who is demanding unique features. The brilliant developer, knowingly or unknowingly, takes a few shortcuts to hit the deadline. Then the next deadline shows up…and the next. When the real journey to product/market fit ends up taking twelve, twenty-four, or even thirty-six months, adhering to sound development practices and remembering hoped-for product development changes become difficult. The inability to stay true to a rational process for product fixes and development starts to cause leaks to spring up in the ship from icebergs of increasing size.

Even if there is a single engineer who may know everything that needs to be done, a startup needs to follow good practices to avoid incurring serious technical debt that will cause their ability to react to the marketplace to grind to a halt: 

  • You want to maintain a continuously ordered list of user stories and features. (In software development, we call this list a backlog—an ordered list of everything the company knows should be in the product. I always think of this like the punchlist when building a house. Nothing is ever perfect the first time.)

  • Even though they may change, major milestones should be pencilled into a timeline.

  • Use one of the many team tools for managing backlogs, items in progress, and completion of any product development activities. 

  • In a software development scenario, you must build a process that incorporates testing, peer review, and automated code quality tools and review the results every single cycle. There are many parallels to these quality control processes for physical product development and perfecting an innovative service.

The key is to not lose track of what you thought you wanted to do, where you are today, and what steps need to be taken next. Not sure how to prioritize what product development steps are next? Then check out this guide from Innovatemap, Indianapolis product development consultants. Even the best new product/service can be improved. Make sure your startup plans for continuous improvement. Need some tools to track your progress in avoiding The Titanic Effect? Download one of our tools here