Once you discovered a problem of a group of people, got to the bottom of it, its context, and the motivations that people have to solve this problem, you analyze the opportunity in detail. You evaluate if it is worth developing the digital product. You evaluate how to cover the costs of development and operation. And then you go for it.
There’s an enormous amount of books that talk about the subject and, if I would approach the subject in this book, it would probably double its size. That’s why I prefer recommending some book references that I find interesting on this matter. Moreover, software product development has been a much-explored topic in several articles, talks, and books about startups. In a way, startup and software product development can be considered synonyms.
The first book I am going to point out is the Startup Guide: How startups and established companies can create profitable digital products, published in 2012 by Casa do Codigo, written by this author. In this book, I talk about a number of software product development techniques and illustrate them with practical examples based on my experience with ContaCal and Locaweb, and conversations I had with people who are developing software products from other companies.
In it, I talk about various issues related to software product development, such as:
- Problem or need? What is the difference between problem and need? Should I focus on solving a problem or meeting a need?
- Web, mobile or social product? People have been spending more and more time on mobile and social networks. Should I focus my software product on the web or mobile first? Or is it better to make a Facebook application right away?
- What is MVP? What characterizes a product to be minimally viable? Viable for whom and for what?
- Why do I need to launch soon? You may have heard that the faster you launch your software product, the better. The first explanation that comes to mind when we think about it is the cost of development, i.e. the faster we launch, the less it will cost us. However, in my view, this is not the main reason. There are more important ones.
- How to make your web product fast? Once you understand why it is important to develop your software product quickly, the next concern is how to accelerate this development.
- How to set the right price? Will you charge for your product? How much? When?
- Is a free plan worth it? There are several software products that offer free plans. Is it worth it for any kind of software product? If not, what type of software product benefits from offering a free plan?
- Launch Checklist. Okay, you are all set to launch your software product. Really? It’s always good to check that everything is in order before you “open the doors”.
More Reading Suggestions
Following are more reading tips on software product development, in order of importance:
- Lean Inception: How to Align People and Build the Right Product, by Paulo Caroli, in which he shares a sequence of quick activities to understand and plan the creation of lean products, based on the concept of minimum viable product.
- Getting real: the smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application, by Jason Fried, David Heinemeier Hansson and Matthew Linderman. This book tells how the guys from 37signals built their successful products. It holds lots of practical tips.
- The entrepreneur’s guide to customer development: a cheat sheet to The Four Steps to the Epiphany, by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits. Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, wrote a book called The Four Steps to the Epiphany: successful strategies for products that win, that approaches generically the startup subject but creates a very important concept, of customer development. According to his experience, startups don’t die due to the difficulty of making a good product, but due to the difficulty in finding clients for it. Hence the idea of search and develop the client before search and develop the product. The problem is that Steve Blank’s book is very dense, so Brant and Patrick made an excellent summary of 104 pages in which they explain in details the concept of customer development.
- Where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation, by Steven Johnson, author of several interesting books about science and knowledge. In this book, he explains what are the main ingredients of innovation, especially the need of multi-disciplinary teams in order to make it possible to see the same problem from different perspectives.
- The little black book of innovation: how it works, how to do it, by Scott D. Anthony, business partner of professor Clayton Christensen in an innovation consulting company called Innosight. In this book, he defines innovation as something different that has an impact. From this point on, he presents a step-by-step guide to find and test innovation opportunities.
- Crossing the chasm: marketing and selling high-tech products to mainstream customers. Written in 1991 by Geoffrey Moore, who wrote the book in which he explains that between the early adopters and the early majority there is an abyss that many products are not able to cross, since the latter ones need good references to buy a new product and the first ones usually are not a good reference. In this book, Moore also proposes strategies based in war tactics.
- Running lean: iterate from Plan A to a plan that works, by Ash Maurya. In 2010, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur presented a new framework to analyze business models, the Business Model Canvas (BMC). I really appreciate this framework, but the BMC seems to me more focused on settled companies rather than startups. In 2012, Ash Maurya created a framework based on Business Model Canvas, but more relevant to new businesses for it approaches problem, solution and metrics.
- The lean startup: how today’s entrepreneurs use continuous innovation to create radically successful businesses, by Eric Ries, a close friend of Steve Blank. This book resulted from the Startup Lessons Learned blog, that he wrote and is still writing about his experiences with his startup. It is also focused on startups in general, not only the ones on software product. It even approaches a non-governmental organization, well-known concepts such as MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and the feedback cycle Build-Measure-Learn.
Good reading, good product development and brace yourself for the next stage: growth (or the abyss…), our next subject.
Digital Product Management Books
Do you work with digital products? Do you want to know more about how to manage a digital product to increase its chances of success, solve its user’s problems and achieve the company objectives? Check out my Digital Product Management bundle with my 3 books where I share what I learned during my 30+ years of experience in creating and managing digital products:
- Startup Guide: How startups and established companies can create profitable digital products
- Product Management: How to increase the chances of success of your digital product
- Leading Product Development: The art and science of managing product teams
You can also acquire the books individually, by clicking on their titles above.
Mentoring and advice on digital product development
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