Digital Innovation:  Getting Your Idea Off the Ground

Clare AndersonBy Clare Anderson

While many healthcare organizations are excited by the potential of software-driven, digital products and services as a way to exponentially grow their business, they are also challenged in their ability to fully leverage digital opportunities. The features of a new product are key to its success, but many companies make these common mistakes when deciding what’s in and what’s out. Getting it wrong can jeopardize the potential of their product.  Although every organization is different, here are some suggestions on how to address common pitfalls many companies face early on as they transform their unique capabilities into money-making software applications:

1:  Avoid the ‘single focus for our new product’ debate 

Many companies think that in order to rapidly bring an innovative product to market, they need start off with a single driving objective (“let’s save money” or “let’s break into a new marketplace”).  Focusing too early on ONE objective causes endless debate and pointless prioritization exercises that slow down creativity and progress.

When you have an idea, a better discussion to have early on is to target all the departments/companies/users who may benefit from the business value created by the new product.   – even if it is only one user (eg. the COO).  When you do this, you may find that your idea has more value than you originally thought. 

Of course, you will choose your market target when you plan your first release. However, your goal early on is to identify ALL of your targets.

2.   Never discard a feature – defer a feature it to a future release

The best time to make decisions about narrowing the feature set is right before the “construction phase” of a project.  Typically, this is when the team weighs which features to include in the first release.  The reason it’s important to wait until this phase is to prevent the team from cutting innovative features from your product roadmap based on concerns over budget or technical resources.

Keep everything on your roadmap.  When you have unanimous agreement that a feature does not belong in a first release, keep it on the roadmap but marked for Release 2.   

3.  Recognize and eliminate business policy debates
   

Often times, teams have a great idea but they get stuck in lengthy discussions on how they are going to implement a feature or manage its legal or business implications.  Don’t spend time as a team trying to figure out all of the answers.  Instead, ask a team member to do a little research (don’t spend more than 60 minutes) on whether or not the feature COULD be implemented. If it’s ‘POSSIBLE’ to implement, keep it on the roadmap and move on.

4.  Don’t Prioritize.  Categorize when you’re ready to plan your future releases

When you’re ready to think about your strategy for releases, many teams get bogged down trying to ‘prioritize’ the features.  This is difficult to do as a group because most features are important for different reasons. Plus, teams tend to debate the merits of ‘operational efficiency’ or ‘competitive advantage’ of a feature when, in reality, the feature fit into many categories.   

There is a better way.  I have a simple exercise to help teams categorize the feature set and put them into a set of product releases. By the end of the exercise, the team knows which features to include in the first release and which to debate.  (You can download the exercise here). 

Summary

Getting a product from idea to inception involves many decisions about features.  Oftentimes, features are discarded too early and for the wrong reasons leaving product owners with a diluted offering.  One key is to move the feature decisions to the start of the construction phase so that you have a compelling release delivering targeted business value.

Clare Anderson, Geneca Client Partner, is an ambassadorial leader with extensive expertise in the sale and delivery of software solutions for sales and marketing, customer service, finance and contact center businesses. With decades of experience as a client facilitator, coach, and mentor, Clare’s career  has been largely dedicated to helping technology professionals and managers deliver greater business value. You can reach her at Clare.Anderson@Geneca.com.

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