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Product Failures And How To Avoid

By Kane Avery - Head of Training

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Most products can be extremely complex and that can result in all kinds of pain and friction for some of the end users that experience these complexities. When designers and engineers meet there are a lot of things to consider in order to maintain a frictionless experience for the key end users, and when something gets missed it can be extremely painful.

 In this example from the automotive world, we can see the types of issues car mechanics face constantly when working on vehicle maintenance. This bolt simply cannot be removed because of the engineering that was ‘required’ to produce a functioning vehicle. In some ways, it's funny that this can even happen, but on a production line the order of assembly can be controlled and that doesn’t always work in the real world. This is why we take the time in product management to consider our personas and produce detailed definitions that can inform cross functional teams such as design or engineering to help us avoid these types of errors that can cost users time, and therefore cost users money.

To understand this a bit further we should really look towards requirement building and cross-functional communications to help us master the art of avoiding product/service fails like this one. Or… more comically, like this example below, where the kettle may be filled, but only by a cup full at a time – if you have a cup, that is.

Well defined requirements are critical within any product team no matter the size. It's important we set off on the right foot when development begins, and we do so by being very clear on exactly what it is we are building and who it is for. As a Product manager, it should be completely clear whom this product or service is for and how those personas connect to their own user journeys. All of this work ensures that we can define the requirements of the product/service appropriately before it's delivered to market.

Well-defined product requirements are beneficial commercially and can have a great impact on your business and product/service:

  • Enhances Reputation – Building reputational excellence will have a knock-on effect to some of the points below but reputation alone can often be enough to create new wins. Back to cars and we see this with Porsche, a reputation strong enough that customers will put money down on flagship models without even seeing what the vehicle will look like or knowing what features it will have! The converse of this might be Alfa Romeo, for example, some equally brilliant cars built compared to Porsche. However, because of the Italian company’s reputation, you would be more likely to test drive a flagship Alfa before putting the money down to secure their purchase. A simple but powerful difference between the two brands.

  • Increases Revenue – This follows on from reputation, this uplift alone can increase revenue. Will greater definition around our requirements, we can build more compelling products then before… and more compelling than our competition. With a boost to the quality and/or capability of our products and services, we have the chance to win more and therefore sell more. Again, this is symbiotic with reputation as both impact each other positively if executed well!


  • Reduces Development Cost – Clearly, if we articulate our product requirements well from the start, we can make sure that development teams can build out everything in the most efficient way possible, taking all aspects of the product in to account. The benefit here is that we can make less mistakes or require fewer tweaks or reworking to account for forgotten or missed requirements. Better defined requirements should equate to lower development cost due to features being built the correct way first time, more often.


  • Improves Time to Market – Get to market quicker with improved requirements that help every team working on product delivery do their job better and faster! As you can imagine the knock-on effect here can be significant. Getting to market faster might reduce initial competition live in the market allowing you to capture a larger market share earlier on and increase potential revenue as well as building your reputation in that market. As for in-life products that receive updates over time, the thought is the same, if we can deliver newer technologies or capabilities to a product that’s in-life, we can gain similar benefits as delivering a new product into market more quickly. The outcomes should be similar, building reputation and increase revenue, but the mechanisms may be slightly different in that rather than corner a market or capture a larger share at launch – We may see results more along the lines of reducing churn and increased new customer acquisitions. 


Cross-Functional Communications

To help requirements land with the relevant people within your business, communication is key. For Product teams and product managers, bridging the gap between product– development – marketing – stakeholders and more, is critical to the smooth operation, delivery, and management of products and services.

3 key things to improve cross-functional communications.

  1. Clearly define key goals and objectives – This is ten ensure all teams are clearly aligned and working towards the same outcomes.
  2. Define roles and responsibilities – A clear outline of roles and responsibilities across team members across multiple teams that need to work cross-functionally is vital. This helps keep everyone on the right tracks and reduces confusion, helping to ensure everyone is contributing to the overall outcomes with out duplication of workloads or confusion.
  3. Celebrate success! – Acknowledge achievements and key milestones collectively. Ensuring that efforts of cross functional teams are recognized and encourage the wins to maintain collaboration and morale. Leaders should connect these teams to celebrate as we bask in the reflected glory of the success that is achieved! 

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