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4 Checklists to Build A Successful Product

I was recently discussing with a fellow startup founder about what we can do as founders to limit a product failure. That discussion got me thinking about the numerous other points I’ve got and the lessons learned from my own experience or experience feedback from friends & founders.

Everyone can build a product, only very few of us succeed to create a product that is worth buying. What can we do to improve our chances of success, or at least, limit our risk of failure?


Checklist #1 : Framing Your Product

  1. Your product will be celebrated if it solves people’s problem(s). This idea may be very basic, but it is the life-wire of any successful product.
  1. Understand the problem and the mindset of the people you are trying to help solve their problem. It is when you understand the problem that you can proffer quality solution.
  1. Ask yourself, “Why is it that this problem needs to be solved?
  1. Research and get data about the problem so that you can properly guide your decision in the product creation. If the problem happens to be a problem that you’ve experienced but has now overcome, then you will understand better, what the people’s mindset is.
  1. Try and solve a problem for a narrowly defined audience, after you’ve gained popularity, you can then move to attending to a bigger audience.
  1. The problem you are solving should be something you can explain to the understanding of your targeted audience; otherwise, your product will be a failure.


Checklist #2 : Execution

The common wisdom among startups is that execution is critical. While everyone knows and says so, only very few of us are actually able to define what a good execution is.

  1. Good execution involves answering questions and solving problems within the shortest time.
  1. Bad execution is a failed project whereby: (a) you can’t draw lessons from your failure (as you can’t ascertain the reasons for failure) so that it won’t reoccur in future projects (b) it took you longer time before learning your lessons, whereas better methods would have been used to learn same in shorter period.
  1. The difference between a successful team and an unsuccessful team is not whether they failed at one point or another, but their ability to execute consistently.
  1. As you provide a solution to a problem, examine or mention the different ways such problem can be solved. After that, you can then narrow down to the winner. Why this is important is to show how vast your knowledge of the matter is. Imagine a situation whereby you are presenting a solution and someone asks you whether you have tried applying X,Y,Z and you say ‘No,’ they will then assume your research is not broad enough to be professional.
  1. Ascertain the best idea(s) by picking the top X preferable ones and presenting it to the people to measure their reactions. This will help you know what the people prefer.
  1. As soon as you’ve ascertained the idea or solution you want to proffer, organize it in terms of hypothesis – clarify what the project is all about and what it wants to achieve, and then how to reach the targeted audience – what percentage would be reached through e-mail, facebook, etc.
  1. You can improve your hypothesis by engaging people on the streets or making a survey that targets your audience to know whether the people interested in the idea are many enough. You can quickly build a clear conclusion, even though it may not be as complete as the idea you intend to come up with.
  1. If your hypothesis received good signals, don’t be in a haste to roll out your product, still take your time to plan the product, organize it, add or remove some ideas from the product based on your survey. Also, determine what you should send out to test-run the product before finally shipping abroad.
  1. If your project is huge and requires lots of changes, you should split the changes into smaller units that can be tested and verified independently. If you do all the changes together you may end up having the wrong result, and then it will take you time to ascertain the change(s) that are responsible for the wrong result.
  1. Investigate the project irrespective of whether it succeeded or failed – Ask yourself, “What are the team lessons learned? What are the product lessons I’ve learned? And what are those things that should be done differently next time?” Share the answers and lessons learned with the company.


Checklist #3 : Be crystal clear about your definition of Success and measure it

  1. The way you measure success is very important to the long-term results you’ll be getting from your team. What you call success will affect your team’s inspiration. Give more time in determining what to call success, even more, than you think about “how to actualize it.”
  1. Make sure you have defined what you will call success before you launch your product. The reason is that, if you start to analyze results after they had started coming in, you will definitely have a confirmation bias which will definitely result in non-objective analysis.
  1. For every success metric, there should be a counter metric to ensure that you are not deceiving yourself. For example, when you measure an increase in production, a counter metric for this could be to measure the quality of the things produced.
  1. Whenever you observe that an essential metric has shifted, either negatively or positively, the first thing to do is to investigate “WHY.” It is only when you know the “why” that you should go ahead to boost or remedy the shift.
  1. For you to rightfully measure your success, use the Crystal Ball method. Ask yourself “If I ask users of my product their experiences with my product, what and what should I get from them that would determine whether or not my product was a success?” One of the things you should strive to know should be the number of people who received value when using your product. Questions like these should be used to build your metric.
  1. Always set your goals based on your current information. For instance, if you are working towards a goal and in the process, you gather new information that changes your perception, you can consider changing your goals based on that information if such change(s) will give you the best results.
  1. Whenever you notice that the team you are working with measures success in a way that you don’t agree with or understand, bring it up immediately. It is better to treat it earlier than later because the way success is measured is fundamental to good execution and productivity.
  1. Are you constantly having a conflict with your teammates about product direction? The reason is definitely a disagreement in the way success is measured. One of the ways to resolve this issue is to present a new proposal on how to measure success.
  1. If you want to measure the market-fit of your product, your goal should be on retention. Find out the number of people using your product and COMING BACK for it because they LOVE it.


Checklist #4 : Getting the right Team Dynamics

  1. In a team, it is not good to think and focus ONLY on your responsibility or your profession; this will limit your impact on the team. Your thinking should expand into asking “What can I do to help my team succeed?”
  1. One of the things that make a team succeed is when the team is in love with problem solving than being in love with a particular solution. A team that is interested in solving problems will never give up on a project until they get solution no matter how many time they fail.
  1. In a team, you have to recognize the areas you are good at, and also the areas each person in your team is good at. After that, responsibilities should be shared based on those skills. But the mindset of everyone should remain “the overall success of the team” – not “I have done mine, let them do theirs” kind of mindset.
  1. Good communication is a very important key to a successful team. Let every member of the team understand that they can air their views, no matter how irrelevant and useless it may seem – just let them express themselves, even when their views are 100% contrary to what everybody believes. When there is a diversity of opinions, the team tends to get better results. Don’t be afraid to repeat your views if you feel they have not yet understood what you were saying.
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