3 Tips for Reducing the Time to Market for Digital Products

by Shantal Erlich
Blog Post

Time to market can play an important role in the success or failure of digital products.

For most companies, the goal is to get a quality product to market as speedily as possible. Sometimes they’re working with a relatively short runway in terms of funding available, which is a good reason to try to have a viable product out before funds dry up.

In many cases, getting the product to market quickly can make all the difference in terms of beating out competition to be a preferred solution in a category. Imagine if you were Dropbox before Dropbox, or Salesforce before they came onto the scene and dominated.

That being said, it’s a fine balance when you’re developing a new product. You don’t want speed to be so much of a focus that quality is impacted, but you also don’t want to get into so much of an “analysis paralysis” over features that development time is extended.

How can you reduce time to market for digital products? Let’s look at a few tips:

#1. Go “lean”

Within large companies in particular, their strength in numbers, resources and experience can also become a weakness. With teams working in silos, reporting structures that can be burdensome, and having to work with and account for input across multiple stakeholders, it’s little wonder that project timelines are often slow.

Going “lean” in a digital product development sense borrows principles from the Toyota Production System, emphasizing “the quickest and most efficient way” to deliver products. Consider two of the underlying principles behind Toyota’s system:

  • Jidoka (highlighting or visualization of problems) – Quality must be built into the manufacturing process.
  • Just-in-time – Making only what is needed, when it is needed and in the amount that is needed.

Both of these principles are seen adapted to the software development environment when we look at lean or agile methodology. Agile development sees “sprints” to complete sections of development and review work from the sprint period, building quality into the process. Ideas such as “minimum viable product” borrow from that “making what is needed, when needed” principle. Or, you could look at the seven principles IBM lays out for lean development, and see how “eliminating waste” is essentially the same thing.

Source: developer.com

One efficiency that larger companies can create to foster those principles was examined at length in a McKinsey report – the DevOps team. DevOps is the integration of product development and IT teams, in order to create a focus on continuous delivery. As McKinsey shares:

“Both capabilities can greatly increase companies’ speed to market (cutting product-testing times from weeks to minutes) while significantly reducing the cost of delivering new products and services. They can help to ensure higher-quality software, better rates of customer adoption, and fewer risks in product and service delivery.”

The heavy emphasis of going lean is based on simplification. For example, if you’ve got a DevOps team, you should have a “single source of truth” for all software, helping to break down any silos or communication issues. How can you shed “weight” within your organization so that projects are more streamlined? Sometimes the delay in time to market is all in the structure of how projects are managed.

#2. Consider team location

There are pros and cons for both co-located and distributed teams, and it’s worth considering these and how they can impact your project delivery time.

For example, co-locating your team can help to improve communication speed and effectiveness, which can improve overall project performance. On the other hand, being co-located builds in an instant limitation or inflexibility, with the potential to hamstring your team. What happens when there is a public transportation strike or the freeways are blocked? Pretty soon you can run into issues where some people are allowed to work from home and others are expected to make the journey in every day.

Distributed teams can have challenges with communication, especially across languages and time zones, but they also have the potential to work around the clock to get a project finished. While your team members are sleeping in the U.S., your team members in Asia or Europe are getting on with work. Another point here is that, without the inflexibility of having to be co-located, you have a better chance of accessing the skillsets you need on the team. You’ve got far more options when you look at remote locations.

Overall, if you’ve got a good system of communicating, in our experience, a distributed team can be your best way to speed up the project.

#3. Communicate well

This is not just about tools and methods (although of course these play into it), but about what you communicate too.

Ensure that from the first day the project is conceived, expectations, goals and the roles of each team member are communicated clearly. Some of the major delays on development projects have happened when these things have been unclear. Someone thinks that someone else is tasked with a critical piece and the other person thinks the opposite. When the core goal of the end-product is unclear, teams can waste weeks going down rabbit holes and focusing valuable time and energy on the wrong things.

One tip here is that if you can provide the team with good background information, it helps to give them overall context for the project. Knowing that key information can also help to drive motivation for the project and engage team members around common goals. It can also be one of the best ways to generate ideas for improvements – if they know the overall purpose, they are better-placed to make suggestions for why one thing may be better than another.

With goals, roles and expectations communicated early, it is important to then have the systems in place to maintain good communication throughout the project. For example, do you have a “single source of truth” for code? What about project management tools and communication systems such as Slack? How do you track what has been done, by whom and when? Getting the most out of your project team means investing the time and resources into setting them up for success.

Final thoughts

Product speed to market can be an important factor for the competitiveness of companies, as well as successfully working with limited funding. Efficiency is an important part of managing that speed, but this should never be at the cost of effectiveness or the quality of the work.

A conversation between former Apple CEO Gil Amelio and technology reporter Gina Smith illustrates the point well:

“That spring Larry Ellison saw Amelio at a party and introduced him to the technology journalist Gina Smith, who asked how Apple was doing. “You know, Gina, Apple is like a ship,” Amelio answered. “That ship is loaded with treasure, but there’s a hole in the ship. And my job is to get everyone to row in the same direction.” Smith looked perplexed and asked, “Yeah, but what about the hole?”

Getting to market as efficiently as possible doesn’t tend to be an easy task, but it’s definitely made simpler if you have a good foundation, such as lean systems, efficient use of human resources and effective communication. Any of these things could be potential “holes” for your company, so get them sealed early on.

Koombea helps companies to develop quality digital products efficiently. Talk to us about how we can help you today.

by Shantal Erlich
Blog Post