The Product Mindset: A Key Differentiator for Software Development Teams

March 13, 2023
The Product Mindset: A Key Differentiator for Software Development Teams

Software development is constantly evolving in response to shifting customer demands. There is a need to have polished, easy-to-use, and well-rounded solutions rather than stereotypical business solutions that work but are hard to work with.

For software development teams, the product mindset has become an essential factor in recent years to achieve these goals. It involves taking a holistic, iterative approach to the product, looking beyond individual tasks and siloed working arrangements, in order to maximize its value and continuously enhance outcomes.

The Product-Oriented Mindset Explained

The product mindset is a way of thinking that focuses on creating products rather than project outputs. A product-oriented approach to software development prioritizes business needs, targets, and outcomes over timelines and estimates, such as those typically associated with a project-oriented approach. It also emphasizes the importance of looking at the product from a customer’s perspective, allowing teams to create products that truly meet their needs.
It encourages collaboration and communication between team members to identify opportunities for improvement, create products with greater value, and make changes that are beneficial to the product as a whole.

A CIO survey reveals that a whopping 95% of CIOs understand that their roles now extend beyond typical IT requirements, with customer experience at the forefront of their priorities. A product-friendly approach allows teams to similarly shift their focus to create a product meant to enhance the customer experience.

The Project-Oriented Mindset Explained
The Project-Oriented Mindset Explained

The project-oriented mindset focuses on individual tasks and working in silos. This approach can lead to inefficiencies and suboptimal results due to a lack of collaboration and communication between team members.

In the context of software development, the traditional project-oriented approach has the primary goal of developing software on time and within budget and scope. It usually follows the waterfall project management approach with well-defined project specifications and deliverables. Unfortunately, this approach can lead to business objectives and user needs being neglected in favor of meeting the budget, scope, and timeline.

Why a Product-Oriented Mindset Is Better
Why a Product-Oriented Mindset Is Better

According to Gartner, a staggering 85% of organizations have embraced, or plan to embrace, the product-centric application delivery model due to its ability to enable fast delivery, digital business transformation, and the utilization of agile methods. Companies such as Slack, Apple, and Google are among the biggest advocates of this mindset, and they have reaped the benefits in the form of increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

A product-oriented mindset focuses on creating value for customers by understanding their needs and delivering solutions that meet those needs effectively. According to Accenture, this mindset is achieved through a continuous process of collecting feedback and making improvements to the product, a process known as iterative feedback loops. Adopting this approach leads to a more agile product development process and significantly enhances the customer experience.

When it comes to building value, a product mindset is an approach that can deliver results multiple folds from the same effort. This is in contrast to a project mindset, which is focused on completing a specific task within a set timeframe. A product mindset is an ongoing concern with a visionary and long-term approach rather than being time-bound and tactical.

How the Product-Oriented Mindset Is Achieved

By keeping a product-oriented mindset at the forefront of the software development process, organizations can create products that are more valuable to customers and position them to succeed in a rapidly changing business environment. However, significant effort is required behind the scenes to make the product mindset rise above the service-oriented mindset or project-oriented mindset. Here are some key elements that help achieve the product-oriented mindset.

User First

If every action you take in the product build process is user-centric, you start to lay the foundations of a product-oriented approach to developing software. Notable questions a product-oriented team will ask are “How will the user use this?”, “Will the use be able to use this intuitively?”, “Will it take too long for the user to do an activity?”. The goal is to make the user happy while using the product, not just to meet the business requirement.

Everyone Has a Part

A product-oriented mindset has to be ingrained into every member of the team. It does not matter if you are a junior tester or a senior architect, everyone needs to think of the activities as leading to a product that human users will use and need to feel happy about. This drives a very different thinking process in terms of polish, intuitiveness, responsiveness, and accuracy. Regi Roy, the CEO of Founding Minds, says,

“A question I ask our teams occasionally is, If this feature were a part of GMail, how would the feature behave ?”.

That is the thought process teams need to have to achieve product outcomes.

Relentless Optimism

One key aspect of a product mindset is relentless optimism. Nothing is set in stone except for the quest for a viable product. This means that the team should always be testing their ideas, learning from them, and modifying or even pivoting them if necessary. A great example of this is Twitter, which started off as a podcast-accessing platform but eventually pivoted to become the leader in microblogging.

Evolve As You Go

A product mindset requires a willingness to take risks and readiness to fail. It is a long-term journey that involves experimenting and pivoting along the way. Building a product requires taking small steps and validating the thinking at every step rather than trying to tackle everything at once.

The Customer Is Not Always King(or Queen)

It is important to remember that the customer is not always king or queen. In many cases, customers do not necessarily know what the true problem is, let alone the right solution. A product builder or team must be bold enough to see opportunities beyond what the customer is talking about and envision a new future.

Believe In Your Instincts but Validate Them

When building a product, it is important to believe in your instincts but also validate them. Not all products have a market gap or problem statement; some create a market. A razor-sharp focus is key, building only to identify problems and just enough to solve them. The development team must avoid generalizing to the point that the problem cannot be solved and not expand into adjacent problems before the core problem is addressed.

Don’t Ask, Show

When approaching a new idea, it is better to show rather than ask. Customers are poor at articulating what they want, even when they are correct. When the team is able to show them something, the customers can provide them with valuable feedback. For this reason, the development team should try to capture mockups that bring the product to life, as this will increase the chances of getting useful feedback.

Be Practical

Finally, it is important to be practical. Software development teams should keep in mind that they are trying to build a product with the least amount of money to create market success. They should not be wasting resources on unnecessary complexity. Even when there is complexity, the goal should be to hide it away and give the customer a chance to use the product and see a benefit very quickly without having to configure and set up a lot of things.

Final Words

The product-oriented mindset has become a key differentiator for software development teams to consider in today’s highly competitive business environment. By incentivizing collaboration, communication, and innovation, this approach puts the customer at the center of the decision-making process. As a result, organizations can create products of greater value that are more differentiated from their competitors and have a greater chance of success.

Partnering with a software product development specialist is key to delivering good quality software products, and many traditional software services firms come up short. They are schooled in requirement analysis, estimation, and planning and delivery but miss the essence of creating products that thousands or millions will use. Founding Minds has helped incubate several new ventures since its inception in 2008. Over the years, we have built a culture of product mindset within our organization. Unlike traditional software service companies, we take time to understand the business our client is in and help build their products. It is a long-term journey, and we become partners, collaborators, and friends along the way.

If you have a product idea and are looking for a software development company to realize your dream, we at Founding Minds would love to hear from you. We offer a comprehensive package to help you build your software products. To learn more, read more about our Incubator-In-A-Box.

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Copyright Founding Minds 2024.