Every startup knows how tough the competition is today.
Whether you’re a tech think tank or a social media platform, struggling to get your service or app off the ground, it is always nerve-wracking to have to go through the crucial stages of business development, from writing a vision-mission statement to the eventual product launch. The market, too, has been more discerning over the years; and as consumers, we are more knowledgeable and vocal about what we want and don’t want.
Any lingering doubts or even just the slightest hint of misstep can break your enterprise – word spreads fast, and people who thrive in schadenfreude are only too happy to join the melee if things go wrong.
Failure to launch
Consider the already established names in the industry that have experienced some backlash, despite being known as experts on their field. For example, Microsoft launched its music player, Zune, in 2006 as a direct competition to Apple. You would think it would do well, in the sense of the iOS versus Android rivalry we have today, but it didn’t. In hindsight, Robbie Bach, the former leader of the home entertainment and mobile business segment of Microsoft, recognized that they entered the market too late to make a difference:
“The portable music market is gone and it was already leaving when we started. We just weren’t brave enough, honestly, and we ended up chasing Apple…there wasn’t a reason for somebody to say, oh, I have to go out and get that thing.”
Then there was Clairol, who attempted to sell its “Touch of Yogurt” shampoo in 1979. On paper the concept might have succeeded—after all, the company has always used natural ingredients like herbs and honey in their hair products. In addition, the 1970s was a time when everybody was swept in the trend of going organic, and of farm-to-table aesthetic. It shouldn’t be too hard—and yet the results were disastrous. People didn’t take well to associating dairy with what they put on their hair, and some were so confused, they thought it was for consumption. If your customers started eating your shampoo, well—you can guess what happens next.
Such gaffes aren’t confined to physical products either. When Gap introduced its new logo in 2010, it was met with such heavy backlash, the retail brand was forced to recall its design just days after it was revealed to the public. The iconic navy blue square, which everybody loved, was reduced to a smaller, insignificant size on the upper right of the letter “p,” making people wonder about its purpose. Never before has a logo attracted so much negative mainstream attention, not in recent years at least—and even designers weighed in to comment on the company’s motive and execution. Ad Age perhaps nailed the problem, when it wrote:
“…how do you know that new logo you’re paying for isn’t going to make the entire world gag?…Gapgate is about arrogance. It’s about the company’s poorly executed rollout…”
Market penetration is hard work
If these heavyweights can be publicly embarrassed because their team didn’t take enough time to review and re-review their new ideas, what more for fledgling businesses who have yet to put their foot out the door?
The Harvard Review Business calls it “the intransigence of consumer shopping habits.” Our lives are mainly made up of routines and the familiar—on any given day, we revert to the things we know and trust. If there’s something new out there, we would take notice, sure. However, it takes time for everyone to fully adopt it, and integrate it in their lives.
That’s why there are products that may start off strong, but eventually die after a few months. Then there are those that have been around for a while, but will suddenly incur incredible revenue midway through its life. What it all boils down to is this: how ready is your market for your product or service? And how ready is your business?
Product development is even harder, but it doesn’t have to be
If you’re a startup then you know, absolutely, that having a team working constantly on your product is essential. You may cover all aspects—from financial to marketing—but the most important, especially now, is software development.
Whether you have a physical store or sell your wares online, whether you’re a corporate outfit thriving on crowdsourcing or a novice blogger counting on banner ads, everybody needs software that they can rely on. If you want your business to live long and prosper, it’s time to look for experienced programmers that can help you sort out inconsistencies in your workflow and build a better platform that will serve your needs.
Companies such as ITCraft, for instance, specialize on various programming languages in order to serve the needs of clients in the US, Canada, and Germany. Their particular dedication to helping out startups exposes them to the realities of working with entrepreneurs who, though not lacking in vision, ultimately needs developers who can transform an idea into a well-executed mobile app, or software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution.
The idea of an agile practice
One specific method that is used by ITCraft is adapted software development, which is also employed by many companies all over the world. Agile project management involves prioritizing software over the business plan—that is, action rather than planning.
Yes, there is much value in making an outline of your project and what you want to do, but agile encourages an environment where solutions are easier to arrive at with the help of teamworkand flexibility.There is also a clear focus on customers, because they are the ones who can help hone a product’s feature. Open feedback loops as well as the flow of revenues are strong indicators if the product is doing what it is supposed to be doing.
The core of agile can perhaps be summed up in the four important values as written in the agile manifesto written by a small group of developers:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Robert Holler, CEO of VersionOne, says in a report from the Software Development Times:
“Agile is quickly becoming the de facto standard for software development, and five to 10 years from now it is going to…become the best practice and the only way to do software development.”
In hiring the best team, collaboration is the key
Let’s face it—startups dream of generating revenue that is self-sustaining and will propel them to make greater and more stuff in the future. With an eye towards how customers interact today, sometimes the main focus of startups becomes marketing and advertising, with software development moving to the background. It shouldn’t be so, and every business should work towards eliminating this groupthink.
If you’re gathering people and looking to build the best team for your vision, you need to hire and invest in programmers and developers as much as you’re looking for the perfect project manager or graphic designer or writer. Software development is every bit as dedicated to customers as front-facing activities such as social media, if not more. Developing a product involves thinking of the target user’s behavior every step of the way—each tweak, each version, is an opportunity to learn from previous failures, and is an inch closer towards knowing the customer wholly, fully.