Optimising product engineering with the glass box approach - The EE

Optimising product engineering with the glass box approach

Product success strategy remains a black box to many, meaning owners and developers can never be sure which decisions and actions will generate maximum value. How do we take out the guesswork and minimise internal chaos? There is an all-embracing solution blueprint to turn any product design and strategy from black box to glass box, explains Roman Pavlyuk, VP of digital strategy at Intellias.

In 2023, the window of opportunity to bring a product to the market is very narrow. With the current pace at which technologies are progressing and at the same time demand from users for a constant stream of new experiences, the trial-and-error approach is not working well anymore. Combined with the low product success rate due to inefficiencies in existing product development processes this can lead to an end result of the launched product losing market competition.

At the very beginning, and to build a working product, engineering teams need to understand four key areas: Vision, design, engineering process, and scalability potential. The intense rivalry in the market and limited window of opportunity creates enormous pressure on the businesses; especially on those that are yet to become fully digital. This leads to teams rushing their decision-making within each of these areas and their results becoming handicapped by guesswork.

This intense pressure businesses face forces them to create strategies that resemble a ‘black box’ enigmatic products that the market struggles to comprehend and, consequently, rejects. This unsettling reality stems from the unanswered questions that teams grapple with during the product development process. The very success of a product hinges on finding truth in these mysteries, yet it has become normal for teams to accept the absence of these answers, instead choosing to roll the dice.

This is why numerous organisations are seeking to transform their current product strategies away from an opaque ‘black box’ model that makes it difficult to comprehend the internal processes. We suggest thinking about this strategy as a ‘glass box’ approach, enabling teams to gain a clear understanding of the strategy’s internal mechanisms, and achieve precise predictions through focused product engineering. 

Eliminating guesswork

As stated, product engineering strategies often result in a ‘black box’ approach: a system or process whose internal workings are unknown or hidden from view. In this theory, the focus is primarily on the inputs and outputs of the black box rather than the specific details of how the product is engineered or manufactured. In this context, the internal processes of product engineering are complex and intricate, involving various stages such as design, development, testing, and manufacturing. However, the emphasis is on the process’s outcome or output: the product itself.

The black box theory suggests that while the internal workings of the product engineering process may be opaque or difficult to comprehend, the functionality and value delivered by the end-product matter most. However, that leaves a lot of unanswered questions during the development phase, such as:

  • What is that minimum set of features that will take us to the market?
  • Which decisions and actions will generate the maximum value?
  • How can we realise value faster and reduce waste?
  • How do we take out the guesswork and minimise internal chaos?
  • How do we cultivate customer’s motivation to use the product?
  • How do we maintain the pace and keep up with an extreme competition?

To answer these questions, businesses should follow an all-embracing solution blueprint to convert the black box into a glass box, with four key stages:

  • Focused validation of the market problems

Use a blend of market and user analysis to define your value hypothesis: why customers will likely use your product, what features they need, and how you can make them care. A reasonable value hypothesis defines the what (the main value proposition), the who (the target audience), and the how (the product feature). This can be done through a mixture of a market analysis to address the total serviceable market, as well as user analysis to determine target user feedback.

  • Robust implementation

Now that you have done your homework, it is time to put the theories to the test. To confirm product-market fit, you must introduce a pilot version of the product, often called a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), to real users. Then, you can engage with market feedback, analyse the findings, and use them to guide the development of a comprehensive, feature-rich product. Gathering a cross-functional team of product, design, development, and QA experts can accelerate product development and optimise productivity according to lean and agile principles.

  • Orchestrated introduction

When developing a digital product, organisations need to contend with a limited amount of people, money, and time. The speed at which you establish a solid product-market fit and deliver value to users with your early version directly correlates to how quickly you can leverage that growth momentum. A well-defined go-to-market strategy is crucial in rapidly reaching the appropriate audience to validate and adapt your product idea. The primary objective of your go-to-market system is to recognise, attract, and actively involve power users. These individuals fully harness your product’s capabilities, delve into advanced settings, utilise lesser-known features, and even explore novel and unique use cases.

  • Intelligent decision-making

When scaling the business, the ‘chasm’ between the early adopters and the early majority is where the risk lies. Early traction doesn’t always guarantee significant growth. To safely cross the chasm, rely on data to comprehensively assess your product context, including your business model, product lifecycle stage, and sales funnels. This will help identify weak points and inefficiencies; exploring the broader market context and customer feedback will also help locate weaknesses.

Roman Pavlyuk

Bring your product engineering into focus

The bigger the idea, the bigger the success or failure. The purpose of exceptional product engineering is to enhance the likelihood of success by reducing uncertainty regarding the methods, features, and reasons behind customer behaviour.

By leveraging robust product engineering knowledge and collaborating with reliable partners, you can depend on qualitative and quantitative feedback throughout each phase of the product development cycle. This iterative approach ensures you build a business poised for secure, scalable growth.

The author is Roman Pavlyuk, VP of digital strategy at Intellias.

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