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How To Build New Products In An Established Business

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Developing new products is the lifeblood of many businesses. As the saying goes, if you stand still, then you are actually going backwards because everyone else is moving forward. If your business model relies on providing new technology for clients, products for them to use, and apps that can be sold - these all require development resources.

Not a problem, of course, you have a development team, a product team and project managers to get the job done. But what if that resource is already maxed out working on existing products, evolving them or taking them beyond the MVP stage?

Due to these different scenarios, you’ll need to consider other options when it comes to developing new products within an existing business that already has commitments. In many ways, this is easier for startups that are only focused on producing those first, new products. 

Make Sure It’s Worth The Effort

Before we take you through the different options you have to develop new products within an established business, it is worth discovering if all that extra work and potential cost are worth it. 

In this article, we are not going to take you through how to come up with new product ideas or ways to identify new ideas, if you struggling with new product ideas, here is a great article to help. We are going to assume you’ve had an idea and are now deciding if it's worth pursuing and how to go about it without every other part of your business coming to a halt!

Is there a market for it?

Step one, will anyone buy it. A pretty fundamental question and one that you can answer relatively easily. Ask yourself these questions and if you can honestly say yes to most of them, then you at least know if you built it, then you’ve got a market of people to sell it to.

  • Does it fulfil an existing market need?
  • Do you have current customers that would take the product if offered to them?
  • Can you support and sell the product for a price that the market will pay?

What is the competition?

There might be a market for the product but what if it is a market flooded with competitors and it will be nearly impossible to break through?

You need to assess the competition and review how they sell the product, who they are selling to and what pricing models are in place. This information will help you gauge where you can enter the market and how competitive you can be.

You also need to see if you can evolve the product and stand out from others. You might see that 10 other companies are already building this product for a price that you’d struggle to compete against, but what if your product works slightly differently and that would make it more valuable to the end user?

If you can genuinely stand out from the existing versions of the product, then you are in a much stronger position to develop the product, market and price it differently from the competition.

Test The Market

The final test you’ll want to do before ploughing ahead with the new product is talking to the market. Get together some focus groups using two different types of potential user.

  • External prospects, people you have engaged with previously or potentially partners you have good relationships with
  • Existing customers, where possible find a mixture of ones that have used a similar product and ones that would be new to the idea

The key to making this work is a high-quality prototype to show people what they will get. You cannot rely on explaining the idea or a few design mock-ups, it needs a functional prototype. These are not difficult to produce with modern no-code tools and can be created without the need to involve your development resource, it’s a job easily handled by the product owner.

If you are lacking the right people to design or build a prototype for your product idea, get in touch with us for a free consultation and we’ll help you pull together a plan and if you need it, give you some resources.

Money vs Speed

The final thing to consider before we compare the different options you have for developing new products within an established business, is what budget you can make available. This will have a massive impact on the options you can choose from.

It will also alter the speed at which you can develop this new product. As part of your assessment of the opportunity, you need to decide how vital speed is to the process. If you are worried that others will beat you to market and that this will heavily impact performance, then you must include this in your decision-making.

If you are struggling with a budget then you’ll need to assess how to make the most from the resources you already have, but if you’ve been given a small fortune to get this new idea live then getting an agency working on this outside of your team could be ideal. 

For many, the real answer lies somewhere in the middle, where hiring a few additional developers will enable them to deliver the new product.

Which Methods Work Best To Develop New Products

Using The Existing Team

The first option that most businesses will need to explore is building their new product utilising the team they already have in place. You have several ways of utilising this resource.

  • Take an existing sprint team and allocate them the new product. Within this option, you could allocate this team 100% to the new product or a lower percentage of time, which will slow down the progress of development
  • Build a new team from resources borrowed from existing sprint teams. You are spreading the other teams a little further, which will mean they won’t be able to develop at the same speed with the reduced capacity but at least the newly built team would be dedicated to the new product
  • Break the project up and allocate elements of it to different teams to work on. This disrupts the current teams the least but is likely to be the slowest approach within this option and it will still require a central person (dev lead or product manager) to own the overall new product development

Pro’s to this approach
  • You have an established team and process. When you choose this option you can have confidence that the new product will be developed within company-approved guidelines
  • You know that you’ll get good documentation and less technical debt in the long term. This is because this team knows that it has to support the product after its launch
  • In theory, it’s the cheapest of the different options. This is because you are not incorporating new costs. However, you do need to balance this against the team(s) not working on something else, which in itself could end up costing you. For example, it might prevent you from finishing off an existing product and current customers get upset with that lack of progress

Con’s to this approach
  • It will be disruptive to the existing service. This can materialise itself with slower development of other products
  • You risk jealousy within the teams, with competition to work on the new product, causing further distraction
  • It can stifle the innovation you need for the new product - the team will have set ways of working when you might want them to think of new approaches
  • It is quite probable that you might not have the skills needed within the current team for the new product. These can of course be learned but that then slows down the speed of development

Outsourcing To An Agency

With this approach, you take your new idea and outsource the entire development to one agency that builds everything. You’ll need to decide if you also use their resources for product management, although we would always advise having the new product owned within your internal product team if possible and just use the agency as the resource to build it.

You will need to give careful consideration to the point that you bring this agency in. Should you think about building prototypes first and being confident in what you need to develop? If you don’t, you run the risk of paying a lot to an agency during the more experimental and ideas phases.

Pro’s to this approach
  • You have dedicated resources that will not get distracted by existing projects or pulled into working on other projects in the company
  • By virtue of the dedicated resources, this should be the fastest option to get your product to market and if making an MVP live quickly is vital to the product then this option needs to be considered

Con’s to this approach
  • This will clearly be the most expensive option, you are paying for an entirely new team
  • This new team is not employed in the business long term and will lack the motivation to focus on quality as they don’t maintain it post-launch

Supplementing Your Internal Team

With this final option, you will find contractors to supplement your existing team. You have a couple of ways of making it work, so choose the one that you are most comfortable with.

  • Choose specific skills and individuals to fit within your current team and have them work alongside your current teams
  • Alternatively, you could pick a full team of developers and have them work as a separate sprint team, reporting into one of your internal product owners

Whichever option you decide upon, it’s important to remember you are responsible for managing their time and ensuring they deliver on the requirements. This is an advantage if you have a strong internal product management function, as they will be able to direct developers in a way you need, whereas with an agency, you have less control over them.

Pro’s to this approach
  • You get to pick the skills you need, so you can guarantee you have the right ones for the project. By choosing a selection of different developers you can build a team of your preference that cover the requirements of the projects
  • It’s much cheaper than hiring an agency, that will put a mark up on all developers in the team to build a margin into their costs
  • The developers sit within your existing team, as a result, they will follow the same processes you require, documentation will be to the same standard and overall long-term quality will be better

Con’s to this approach
  • You need to do a lot of additional vetting or interviews when looking to bring in these additional developers. It is therefore advised to find them via a platform which pre-vets the candidates and puts them through a rigorous set of tests

Testing Progress

Whichever of the methods you select, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t just plough ahead and develop every last detail of the product before you stop and assess. Modern development methods mean you can and should be assessing the results of your new product at all stages of development.

Set out to achieve an MVP (minimum viable product) at the very beginning and once you have achieved this, start getting feedback as soon as you can. An MVP should be of sufficient quality that a client can use it and provide feedback, that goes into evolving the finished product.

Put in place a continual customer feedback loop. Involve your account management or customer success teams in the process and give them guidelines on how often and the types of feedback that you will need. 

At some point, the project will stop being a new product and become part of the standard support you provide. You’ll need to decide where this point is early in development. If you are spending money on an agency of development contractors, it’s important to find a point when you bring the project back in-house and turn off that cost.

And remember, however you decide to work, the key is having a single owner internally that will ensure the vision of the product is delivered and who then is accountable for the results that this produces. The worst thing you can do is have people pointing fingers and blaming others for the end result. 

If you are struggling to build a project plan for your new product idea or just looking for support on how to get started, we offer a free consultation with one of our experts who will help you pull together a genuine timeline for what’s needed and how to deliver it. Get in touch today.