Originally published in Forbes
Building a successful digital product can be complicated, but if you understand a couple of core concepts, then the digital product execution lifecycle will start to make sense. To begin, creating a digital product is different from building a technology solution. A technology solution “only” has to perform a technological function. A digital product must successfully serve a business purpose.
Keep in mind that the digital product lifecycle never ends. You’re always improving what you have. You’re going to be involved in a neverending cycle of prioritization, evaluation and launch. These distinguishing differences are important to understand whether your product is designed for banking, lending, personal finance management, financial wellness or any other blockchain/fintech product platform.
A digital product represents a balance between your vision and the constraints you will surely face. First, you begin the product design process with a vision for its purpose, its benefits and the broader business. There will be constraints on the vision, but if you plan out your app development correctly and realistically, you can foresee these roadblocks and innovate roads around them.
A process that neglects to define constraints runs the risk of accidentally going down the wrong path. With every feature launch, your first priority must be aligning your vision and goals with your customers’ needs while also taking constraints into consideration. You must define your core functions according to your vision. This thought process will evolve as you make your way from a proof of concept to a minimum viable product.
As your fintech digital product development moves forward, customers, the technical team and other stakeholders can assert their needs and distort the plan—pulling it off track. The consequences of getting pulled in multiple directions can be catastrophic to the success of your product and, more importantly, your business.
For instance, if your app is intended for providing banking services that benefit the needs of a certain demographic, you can’t implement all of the features right away, but you should rather begin with the core banking features, such as savings and checking accounts, debit cards and money movement, then phase in credit card integration, data insights even crypto exchange and so on. Creating a plan early on that does not waver due to internal or external influences is incredibly important.
Project management and executive leadership are important in this regard to ensure your people have agreed to a plan and they will be sticking to it. Your goals will surely change in the course of the digital product execution lifecycle. What should you do about it? The best practice my company has adopted sees flexibility as a virtue. It’s natural to change course, but avoid a situation where changes throw an entire product development process into chaos. It is imperative to keep shifts rooted in a continuous process of prioritization and realignment with goals.
If you need to add new features right away, you should continue to measure them up against the other preexisting, and sometimes conflicting, priorities. Your delivery teams should be agile, flexible and committed. Adapting your product priorities due to law changes is extremely common with financial apps or products that handle personally identifiable information (PII). You may have to change your entire roadmap, so it’s a beneficial practice to be transparent with your team and stakeholders as things evolve.
As you move through the digital product execution lifecycle, you will reach stages where you should evaluate your progress and assess how well the product is addressing its stated goals and the business vision behind it. Here is where the difference between a technology solution and a product becomes more pronounced. A technology solution is evaluated based on how well it meets its business and technical requirements. If it meets the requirements, it’s a success.
A product has to work as a product, which can mean that even if it’s built exactly the way it was designed, it might still be a failure if it doesn’t perform correctly. The evaluation process tries to figure out what went wrong or right with a digital product. This is about more than just demos; it is the customer response that matters most. It’s important to remember to address any internal friction along the way. All contributing parties must remain on the same page for the evaluation to be successful.
Finding the right moment to launch involves consistently looking at priorities. Not all priorities will have been met, but it may still be time to launch. You may want to get your MVP onto the market and start pushing out improvements as they are ready. If you have something of value, you can create small batches and launch continuously so you can keep providing value to customers. It may make sense to separate your marketing launch from your product launch. You can announce the product to attract interest and perhaps gain some initial users. Then, when more features are ready, you can roll out the major marketing campaign.
Making a successful digital product requires the right tools. They should fit your projects and have the right functionality for you. We work with many toolsets across a product lifecycle’s work categories. For instance, for a board system, we use Jira. The right wireframing tool for you could be Whimsical. Confluence is a good documentation tool, while Figma makes for a great design tool in certain circumstances. It all depends on your needs, priorities and constraints.
Creating a successful digital product can be a challenging process. Different stakeholders may have conflicting visions for the product. It’s essential to establish a clear, agreed-upon set of goals and a viable plan for execution. Then, as the product lifecycle gets underway, it’s worthwhile to remain flexible but not get pulled in too many different directions. The right choice of tools and strong project management can be very helpful in ensuring that the resulting product will meet its intended business purpose.
See some examples of the types of projects and ongoing clients we work with.