Ready, Set, Transform: The Power of Change-Aware Software Product Development

 

GenUI

GenUI is a digital product and tech commercialization firm. We build innovative solutions that accelerate technology roadmaps and deliver real impact for clients and their customers.

Updated Aug 11, 2021

These days, it’s common for business leaders to talk about transformation. In a world where the competition is constantly evolving, businesses know they must often transform to get ahead. According to IDC, organizations are expected to spend nearly $7 trillion on digital transformation in the next two years as they adopt newer digital technologies and look to disrupt their markets faster than the competition. Common examples of software product transformation include:

  • Replatforming to modern infrastructure, especially the cloud
  • Rearchitecting to use modern patterns such as containerization, microservices, or serverless compute
  • Changing the user experience to fit new expectations and form factors
  • Adding or changing major features to address new markets or use cases

Customer needs change quickly, requiring the pace of innovation to accelerate. Transformation that is pursued as a project with a beginning and an end is no longer enough. It must be built into the process from the beginning, with the assumption that change will be continuous.

Transformation is a mindset, not just a project

In software product development, transformation starts with willingness. Being open to transformation means considering new approaches and possibilities. Sometimes, your development approach can feel stuck and your product isn’t where you want it to be.

With the right approach, this is often a key opportunity rather than a roadblock. Every software product leader needs to ask the question, “Do I want to be right – or do I want to succeed?” Believe it or not, it’s tough to do both. In fact, if you’re innovating at the edge, being open to transformation can ultimately be the key to success.

That doesn’t mean change for the sake of change. Profitable transformation:

  • Is conscious and designed, not reactive.
  • Starts with a data-based hypothesis about your product, strategy, or market and uses a defined process to test and refine that hypothesis.
  • Builds on what you already do well.
  • Relies on a constant feedback loop between product teams and users

The first step: accepting that software products are never finished

Transformation in software begins with the mindset of never thinking your product is finished or the best it could be. It’s often better to start by assuming you are wrong, and then structure the development process to guide you to what is right. For software product developers, transformation could mean expanding your target market, exploring a new technology, or reprioritizing feature sets. Or it could mean discovering different, possibly unrelated goals for your users.

Being willing to transform can also improve your product, which should be the goal. The more you are willing to learn without preconceived notions, the better your product will be. To get there, you might need to:

  • Be uncomfortable. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable may seem like a cliché, but knowing there will be bumps along the way, from planning to design to deployment, can be an important part of evolving your product and ensuring it’s the best it can be.

  • Be transparent. Communicating regularly with your development team and business leaders through all stages of the product development process is essential to success. How often and well you communicate with your team can make all the difference in terms of encouraging collaboration.

  • Think like a scientist. Experimenting is an important part of discovering how to best position your product. After all, a negative result in science can often be more valuable than a confirmation. Thinking like a scientist also means taking a more clinical, non-emotional view of your product, so you ultimately end up making data-driven decisions based on developer and user feedback.

Build the foundation for transformation

Transformation doesn’t happen overnight. To transform successfully, you need to build processes for continuous transformation throughout the development lifecycle.

So how can you ensure you find the right direction early on in the process? You can start by creating a living feedback loop, where communication flows freely between developers, IT leaders, and end users. In a typical development feedback loop, you capture input from all three of these groups, analyze the results, and decide what to change based on the insights gained. In the loop’s final stage, you implement the changes you feel are necessary and deploy them to production. At that point, the loop kicks off again for the next set of features.

Make the most of all feedback

Negative and positive feedback are both useful. In the negative version, you listen to your end users talk about what’s not working for them in the product. You then take that feedback and tweak your product to better fit those needs. In a positive loop, you take the elements that are working and enhance them to make the product even stronger.

Transforming your product based on feedback loop learnings will ultimately help make your product the best it can be, with the right features and user interface based on what you learn from regular input. Instead of building a product in isolation, it’s always better to implement a unified, integrated product development process.

Minimize the financial cost of transformation

Making transformation efficient and cost-effective is also essential. To make this happen, you should strive to build on what you have instead of starting over completely when the development process feels stuck. If necessary, you can rearchitect for change or modularity.

For further cost-effectiveness, you should schedule regular time to objectively evaluate your current assets and learning. You can then recalibrate on the best path forward knowing what you know now. The key? Getting the most information with the least investment. This is where a minimum viable product (MVP) could be a good idea. With an MVP, you test an idea using the simplest version before building, iterating, and validating the product with actual end users.

Overcome cultural resistance to change

Whether you’re a startup or an established software company, transformation is as much a cultural challenge as a technical one. Whether it’s resistance to new technologies or general fear of change, people on your team could be unwilling to support the transformation initiative.

The best way to solve this problem is through a focused collaboration and communication effort. One report shows that comprehensive collaborative efforts can move the corporate culture to understand and even embrace digital transformation. Having the right technology in place is important. Getting buy-in at all levels of the organization is equally critical. Here are some thoughts on how to make transformation easier for the various leaders and teams involved:

  • Talk to project stakeholders one-on-one throughout the entire process. They will often be willing to discuss concerns they would not divulge in a group meeting, especially if those concerns are large enough to create an obstacle. Making people feel heard is a great way to uncover any issues or concerns.
  • Reward people for uncovering valuable learning, not just getting finished products out the door. If everything is based on time-to-market, software development teams are likely to miss flaws and push bad software out the door.
  • Foster more communication and collaboration. To fully embrace transformation, you need to encourage your team to communicate regularly and work together to solve problems to avoid becoming stuck. This will lead to less resistance to change, fewer departmental silos, and more developer productivity overall.

Building your path to transformation readiness

Where do you go from here? Maybe you know you need to transform your software project and are willing to do the hard work of making it happen but are struggling to discover the best path forward. GenUI can help because we’ve been there. We work with software companies every day, helping them get their ideas and projects back on track, with minimal impact on their budget. Connect with GenUI. We can help you transform your products efficiently and cost-effectively.