Baldur Bjarnason

... works as a web developer in Hveragerði, Iceland, and writes about the web, digital publishing, and web/product development

These are his notes

On the relativity of great product development strategies

This here piece is a good overview of what are current best practices in product development.

“What is a Great Product Development Strategy?”

It contains this here expectation-setter:

“Usually, the R&D department tends to make multiple versions of the product. Officially, it’s called prototyping, and it can take months to figure out.”

And that’s just the prototyping stage. Each of the other stages potentially takes even a good team weeks if not months to complete.

The downsides of this strategy is how much investment it requires, both in terms of time and resources. For it to work properly, most of the steps require decent-sized teams and, potentially, months without any real revenue. In effect, it’s tailor made for either VC-funded startups in a tech hub city or pre-existing large companies with plenty of resources. It works well for them because it leverages resources they have relatively easy access to.

Product development is always going to be resource-intensive. It doesn’t take a deep reading of About Face to realise that doing this well takes a lot of money and people-hours.

But if you aren’t VC-funded, aren’t based in a tech hub, or don’t have the resources then this strategy is likely to be a struggle, even more of a struggle than product development normally is.

As far as I have been able to tell over the years, the best chance a small, resource-strapped team (or solo entrepreneur) has of making a successful product is by starting off with a small product, make that work, and iterate from there as regularly described by Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman at Stacking the Bricks. Much like blindly copying Facebook’s software development strategies with only three developers versus their 25K developers is only likely to cause you pain, copying their product development strategies when you have three people and a slim budget is also likely to be fraught.

After all, none of these companies—Facebook, Google, Apple, Netflix—were using their current processes or strategies when they were starting out in the proverbial garage.

If you’re planning on copying them, why not focus on the strategies they were using when they were at a stage similar to where you are instead of where you hope to be ten years from now?