Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Planning an innovative offering to be turn-key ready – 1: outlining the fundamental challenge

Posted in startups, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on November 20, 2011

I initially planned on writing one posting here on what further thought has become a more complex topic: coordinately developing products and services that meet both the needs of the customer and the marketplace, and also the needs of the providing business. So this is the first installment in what I am currently envisioning as a more complex series, and my goal to start here is one of briefly outlining at least some of the basic interconnected issues at stake.

1. Consumers want and need products that meet their needs and that are both cost-effective for them to buy, and reliable and easy to use.
2. Businesses want and need to produce products that stand out in their marketplace as offering unique value to the consumer.
3. Well managed businesses at least realize that their measure of consumer value has to be customer-defined, and not simply a measure of cost or ease to provide for the business. Value in the marketplace is consumer-centric and it drives determination of what does and does not sell, and of what business providers do or do not succeed.
4. Considering points one and three here: the above customer-oriented points translate into a need for businesses to provide products that have all of the key functionality included that the consumer would demand. But ease of use is crucial here and higher value features and options should not be buried in less useful and infrequently needed clutter. More is not necessarily better.
5. The second, business-centric point translates in practice for many businesses into adding as many bells and whistles – as many more features and details as possible into the final product design. Think of this as undirected, or unfocused development and the scatter shot approach to finding and building unique value. This is the more is better approach that comes from developing and marketing to a potential consumer base that the producing business does not actually know or understand, as opposed to a more informed approach with a focus on providing specific consumer value through inclusion of perhaps even just a few select high value functionalities and features.
6. Ubiquitous computing and communications with a proliferation of smaller user interfaces, and the emergence of apps, has put pressure on manufacturers to develop more feature-sparse and feature-selective software, but even there, many manufacturers still take a more inclusive – add in everything approach. And they sacrifice usability and the option of the short learning curve by bulking their offerings out with menus in depth that have to be learned and drilled down through. So smart phones and tablets and their relatives, and software developed to run on them can still be hobbled with this particular problem.
7. And as a final point here, I will cite a key exception to the basic approach of simplicity and usability that I have been developing up to here, with games. Many of the more successful computer games, and particularly multiplayer games are intentionally built to include and even require ongoing learning experiences. And players work their way up through higher and higher levels of experience and accomplishment in the game and that in fact is part of the game itself and a big part of its appeal – that new features and capabilities reveal themselves and become accessible only through working your way through the system. The problem with this approach arises when it is applied in contexts where users would prefer to simply accomplish and complete some task and then move on from there.

This posting and its series to follow are all about user readiness and usability. They are also about cost-effectiveness and both for the business producing products that consumers would select from in the marketplace, and for those consumers too. But mostly this posting is about developing a congruence of interests and priorities that align consumer and business needs and priorities, and decisions made on the two sides of the purchase decision.

These issues and this overarching congruence of needs and interests that I write of here apply to any business as it seeks to offer products that it can use in creating effective, lasting market share and profitability. But these issues come into particular focus for startups and early stage businesses as they seek to do this from a fundamental fiscal-structure disadvantage. Startups by definition are seeking to break into markets or even to create them, without the supporting momentum of established name recognition and without the support of already developed monetary resources from prior business success. They start pre-revenue and have to build from there, creating the unique value propositions they will need for ongoing success in the process.

I have just completed, at least for now, a series on monetary resources and burn rate for startups (see Startups and Early Stage Businesses, postings 67-78 for parts 1-12.) While this series is not a part of that one, it in many respects has a foundation there, insofar as decisions on what to include or leave out in a new offering have to be cost-effective. So what started out conceptually as looking at one small piece, is going to be developed as a more complex puzzle.

I am going to post next to this series with a specific focus on the consumer, their needs and priorities and their decision making processes.

You can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 and the first 200 postings in this general directory at Business Strategy and Operations. You can also find this series at Startups and Early Stage Businesses.

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