It’s hard to argue against the fundamental importance of agile thinking for digital transformation. However, some companies spend so much time thinking of how to apply agile thinking to post-production processes (marketing, procurement, legal, etc.) that they lose the real reasons behind of agile thinking in product development.

You might be catching on to the fact that designing a minimum loveable product (MLP) is more important than building a minimum viable product (MVP), but the one thing seems to put a strain on this realization is—the persistent need to speed up your time to market. There always seems to be pressure to release earlier so that you don’t miss the market window.

If you want to design products that actually make an impact on your intended market, you need to rethink the “time” in time to market.


What Does Time Really Mean for Product Development?

This might seem like such a strange question to ask, but there’s a major difference between just getting to market fast and getting to market quickly with something that can actually win over customers. Along with rethinking the “I” in ROI, we must reshape our idea of what “time” means in time to market. If you beat your competitors to market but you built the wrong product, did you really win?

The ideas of market readiness and time to market are so interconnected that it’s almost impossible to separate them. If you embrace their connection in your product development, you can answer the two questions necessary to truly decrease time to market:

  • What are you going to build that will actually be different in the market?
  • Is what you’re building going to have the economic viability to survive?

The key to building products that are successful in answering these two questions is to infuse your agile thinking with data-driven design thinking.

Don’t Just Build for the Sake of Building

When we talk about shifting from traditional development processes to a more data-driven design model, the whole idea is validating your product as you create it as opposed to blindly trying to decrease time to market. It’s so easy to get bogged down in questions about the number of features you’ll deliver at the start, how many screens will be included, what cloud architecture you will use, or how the coding will work. However, if you can deliver a core MLP, you have an opportunity to deliver a product to customers who will then provide an endless feedback loop as you iterate the product in 2- to 4-week sprints.

Free eBook: Designing for Business Outcomes

Many companies are content to sacrifice time to market and deliver the finished product in a beta state—but this could lead to you completely redesigning your product because the original wasn’t validated all along. Take a lesson from Google’s processes and deliver the MLP that can make a difference in the market, but leave room to iterate as “testers” provide feedback.

This is the true meaning of time to market—when you’ve delivered a meaningful product quickly and continue to design iteratively, adding validated features according to feedback.

Even Waterfall Pioneers Are Embracing a New View of Time to Market

General Electric was a pioneer of waterfall development, but realized in 2015 that a culture change was necessary to keep up with the landscape of digital transformation. In 2015, GE launched FastWorks, which “is about constantly experimenting, learning, and iterating, and the customer being at the center of everything we do.” This isn’t just a start-up mindset—it’s necessary for even the largest enterprises.

Without a development process built on lean, start-up principles, you risk falling behind the market. You might have the fastest time to market from a traditional point of view, but what does that really mean if you have to go back to the drawing board and redesign the entire project, or even scrap the product all together?

There’s More to Designing Successful Products than Time to Market

When you’ve decided to commit to agile thinking to develop your next project, there’s a lot more you need to know than just rethinking the “time” in time to market. Design thinking is essential, but many companies haven’t implemented it (or, in some cases, even know what it is).

If you want to learn more about how design fits into agile product development, download our free white paper, Designing for Business Outcomes, and discover the keys to bringing out the best in your next project and your company as a whole.

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