4 Steps to Ship Your Products Faster
Every company wants to deliver great products with high quality to their customers. At the same time, the company must develop and deliver the product faster without losing quality. Therefore, companies — and especially product managers — always try to optimize the software development process to get faster without losing the quality of the product and get ahead of their competitors.
These four aspects are essential to help you accelerate the speed of your development processes:
1. Have a well-defined product development strategy in place
The basis for every company and software development team must be a product strategy. With the strategy in-place, a team can derive their own necessary steps from the overall strategic framework that will help speed up the product’s development.
As a first step, a company or team must identify the market and the target audience it will develop the product for. If this knowledge is available, it’s much easier to focus on the customers’ needs and get into the details.
Based on the target audience, a development team and especially the product manager, in collaboration with UX/UI colleagues, can start with an early prototyping.
The company can share these early prototypes with target customers to get first insights about the potential of the new product. This early user involvement will help the team again to focus on the features that really matter to the customers.
2. Pursue a lean & agile way of working
If the company strategy is clear, the biggest process improvements can be done within the software development team. If a team uses Agile methodologies such as SCRUM or KANBAN, it can establish a lean way of working, even if the company around the team is not as agile.
The most important thing for a team is to focus. If the development and product focus has a clear vision and mission, a team can achieve amazing things. Here are four ways to become more agile and speed up processes:
- A first process improvement is to focus more on only things that matter and eliminate useless meetings. Especially bigger companies tend to have the habit of having meetings for everything. Many of the topics handled in meetings can also be solved via eMail or messenger.
- Second, teams should only have meetings with a clear agenda and a focus on what results should take place. These might be for example, refinement or planning meetings for the team or meetings with external stakeholders to learn more about their needs.
- The next improvement is to eliminate dependencies, such as relying on other teams or services. This is a challenging job for the product manager, because it’s sometimes not so easy to oversee possible dependencies. In that case it’s important to involve the developers or a software architect in the early product discovery to get the technical perspective to the situation.
- Once the dependencies are clear, the product manager must prepare the backlog for the team, that the team is able to pick up tasks on their own and get the product features implemented and tested. In the best case, the product backlog is prepared for upcoming sprints or weeks. During that time, the product manager can work ahead of the team to prepare new features or talk to customers to get their feedback. With this working mode a team always has a prepared backlog and can deliver products or features after each iteration.
3. Improve automation
Another thing to improve within a software development team is automation. This is clearly not a product manager's task. However, a product manager must know the benefits of automation and support the team in investing time in their own infrastructure, which helps the team to build products.
Once automation is in place, whether they’re automated checks to verify code changes or scripts to package the product and distribute it within the organization, it will save the team time. The team can use this saved time to get more involved into the product discovery or work on the overall technical architecture of the product. If done right, automation will significantly speed up the development and delivery process.
However, before a team starts to invest time and money into automation, the team must have a good understanding of what should be automated and what not. For example, if parts of the product will change more frequently in the next weeks, it’s maybe not a good idea to start automating this part too early. On the other side, if there are critical parts of the application that must always be up and running it’s important to cover these parts with automation from the beginning. The decision which part should be automated when and how should be made within the team.
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4. Documentation is key. Always.
Every product should be documented, including how the product has been developed. What are the supported features, where are potential problems or what to come in the future? Sounds like an easy task, but most teams did not invest enough time in documenting their own products and services. However, this invested time will help again to speed up the development process in the long run. Especially if a product is growing and is getting older, this kind of information will help the team to remember decisions or the product architecture.
Furthermore, a solid product documentation will help to onboard new colleagues to the team. They can invest some time to read through it and can understand dependencies and the logic of the product much faster. This will help the team to bring new colleagues up to speed faster. Last but not least a well documented product will also help stakeholders to get more knowledge about the product without asking and interrupting the team. Depending on the company IT infrastructure, the product documentation can be made within a ticketing system, a wiki or even in the code itself.
Time to speed up: Are you ready to invest?
Companies should concentrate on reducing the time to market of their products. They must be fast enough to serve the needs of their users and to stay ahead of the competition. However, the development speed doesn’t come for free. A team should invest time to analyze the current way of working. To improve the development process, get answers to the following questions to speed things up:
- Is the product development strategy clear for everybody in the team?
- Has the team enough focus and clarity to work independently on their own product?
- Does the team have the required skills to develop the product?
- Is the team using the right technologies and is the tech-infrastructure up to date?
- Is the team enabled to invest time into automation and documentation?