What Is A Product?

In order to win in the new digital world, traditional enterprises need to fundamentally redefine the way they think about products

Product Definition

The classic definition of a product no longer works.

In the pre-digital days, a product was simply the sum of all its features and functions. As long as an organization was able to deliver it faster than the competition, they won.

Not anymore. In the digital age, a successful product needs to do much more.

For example, Google Search won, because the founders defined their product as not just being technically superior but also being easy to use and adopt. Experience and design were just as important as the search algorithm.

Similarly, Betterment (Fintech) is able to attract more customers not just by offering high interest on savings accounts (other traditional banks offer them too). But also because their product vision incorporates the entire customer lifecycle — attracting users, making opening accounts easy, and delivering unique experiences.

Furthermore, these successes are not just limited to digital natives.

Starbucks built one of the most regularly used mobile app, by broadening their focus. Instead of creating just another ordering app, they gave their product a job — reduce wait time. And they kept customers coming back by leveraging rewards and delivering an integrated online and offline experience.

Google, Betterment, Starbucks and other digital champions are winning because they take a holistic view rather than the traditional “feature” centric view of their product.

To define a product more holistically, digital champions leverage the following 9 dimensions.

Product Framework For Creating A Holistic Product

The Product Framework includes:

  1. Goal / Objective: What problem is the product trying to solve? For whom? What is the product’s “job”?
  2. Value: What is the value for the user? Is it superior to the current status quo? Will the user be able to tell? What is the value to us?
  3. Key Result (Metric): How will you measure success? Can it be measured? What are the key indicators? How will you know you have reached your objective?
  4. Experience: What type of experience are you trying to deliver (i.e brand, ease of use, exclusivity etc.)? What other experiences (offline, store, physical product etc.) does it need to be integrated with?
  5. Attract: How will users learn about the product? Adopt your product? How are you going to market it?
  6. Engage: Is this a one-time use or are you trying to build a relationship with the user? If so, what type of engagement would you like? How can you keep users coming back?
  7. Key Features: What are the key features & functionalities we need to deliver?
  8. Technology: What platform are we planning to use (i.e web, mobile, APIs etc.)? Are there any external dependencies (i.e data, APIs, platforms etc.)
  9. Feasibility: Do you have the technical skills to build the product? Can you built it within the current budget / timeline?

Creating a holistic product definition is not easy.

Renaming Rarely Works

It is a lot of upfront work. But the benefits are worth it.

First, it puts the customer in the middle. By designing your product around your customer’s life you are integrating your product into how they want to consume it. The focus is on them (e.g reduce wait times), not on technology or features.

Second, it differentiates against the competition. Most traditional organizations continue to build feature driven products. You could do the same (maybe a little bit better / faster feature development) or you can change the rules, deliver unique experiences, and run circles around them.

Third, it forces the team to think / work differently. Delivering a holistic product requires a different mindset, skills, team structure, development process, and leadership. By changing the problem statement, you are forcing your team to incorporate new ways of working.

Creating a much more holistic point of view of your product is what is going to help you thrive in this digital age.

Mustafa Kapadia is passionate about helping large organizations innovate, create new products, and be agile so that they can win in this digital world.