2 Paths to Product Development Success

When HP was first founded, it was done on the basis of a product which had been built out of curiosity and then sold, followed by requests for more. The engineers then built another product, and then another, each of which sold to more and more customers. The company grew on the basis of many individual products with little to no vision for where the company was going. Products were built with no vision for market and yet the company grew to become a massive success.

Other companies have taken a different route – they identify a need, a consumer, and then build a product or service to fill a void. The vision is clear, the goals well-defined.

Which is correct? Both, and neither.

Building a product with no vision for market means that the product is likely to be built well, since there is little pressure to get it to market sooner rather than later. However, since there is no market, it’s a distinct possibility that the product has no market, and therefore will never see revenue. As well, since it is not fulfilling a real need, it’s possible that the product will be found to be lacking in key areas that customers are concerned with.

On the other hand, selling the product first means that there is external pressure to complete the product as soon as possible, which can have negative impacts on quality control. Additionally, there is the risk of unachievable promises, with features being sold without an ability to build those features.

Like many things in life, the best route is that of a compromise. No vision isn’t good, but too much vision can blind you to other options and alternatives. Waiting to find a customer means time is wasted that could be spent developing the product, but ignoring customer acquisition means that you can be headed into a dead end long after you could have realized that there’s no future in the product.

Do you ascribe to one of these two concepts over the other? Why?