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Posted on | October 21, 2013 | Comments Off on Featured Article

Why “Solutions Approach” Wins as most effective for Product Development and Product Management!

 By Anna Pasupathy

Over the next 2 Months we’ll be rolling-out a three part article series on Why and How Solutions Approach helps create and manage effective products that win market acceptance.

Part – 1:  During Product Conception

Companies set out to develop a product that serves a critical need. This is how a product creates value for its customer and it all begins with a ‘solutions approach’ – one that attends to the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of customer needs. Here we will discuss this solution approach in three parts as we journey through the product development life cycle. Part-1: ‘During product conception’, followed by Part-2: ‘During product creation’, and finally Part-3: ‘While growing (crossing the chasm) and continuing to be the market leader’.

The word ‘solution’ (noun) means ‘a method of solving a problem’ or simply put, ‘an answer’ to a question.  This answer could be a fresh innovative idea or it could be just ‘putting out the fire’ in an existing system.  The method to produce the best answer is what we call here as the ‘Solutions approach’. This simple approach is applicable to products in companies big and small as they come up with a new product.

To see this approach during conception, consider an incubator or a start-up. You identify a user, customer or a market need that is ill served. Framing this ‘need’ or ‘problem’ is the first step in the direction towards the right solution. It identifies the ‘what’ of the customer needs.

Next, look at the ‘why’. Find the reason behind the underlying need or problem. Find the ‘alternatives’ that are currently used.

Once the ‘what’ and ‘why’ are nailed down, succinctly figure out an answer that efficiently meets this need or resolves an existing pain point. Products that mainly address the pain points of an existing system are evolutionary. These problems can be dealt with different perspectives and different approaches, and hence may lead to different solutions. This is common among competing products. Innovative products on the other hand apply a new idea as the answer. In this case there is no exact pre-existing model to work with. Often, having been accustomed to the constraints, the need for such an innovative answer is not even realized and there is no real outcry for it. The unavailability of this answer had already been internalized to a greater extent. Evolutionary or revolutionary, ‘Eureka!’, you finally have the product idea that punches out the answer.

With the problem framed, and the answer found, now define your solution and clearly identify what you offer. Quickly build a prototype of your solution to validate your answer. This is very important because the need or problem identified is often time sensitive. Its validity changes as the market evolves. Be subtle, but validate your ideas in the industry in various dimensions – market segment, price, cost, interest etc.  If and when validating your ideas with your customer, be respectful of their time and resources. Remember to protect your intellectual property during this process. When the solution meets the intended criteria, move forward to build the product. Always focus on the purpose of your solution and set your goals and strategy accordingly.

Your goals and strategy will lead you to the ‘how’ part of the product. Depending upon the product and its complexity, the amount of financial infusion, level of talent, time and influence required to build the product would vary. A highly focused small team with expertise in key areas should build a clean skeletal product. All product decisions should be made considering its value to the customer in assisting with their needs. This ensures that your solution idea is the real answer that the market needs, and gives you momentum in confidently building up the product.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this journey- ‘During Product Creation’

Key Takeaways:

  1. Always focus on the purpose of your solution to add value.
  2. Patent and protect your product ideas.

 Anna Pasupathy is an engineer in Software and Communication industry, and has worked for start-ups and big companies. She can be reached at annapasupathy@gmail.com.