Deciding to Build a New Product

After today’s entrepreneurship talk for one of Emory’s MBA classes, several of the students lined up to ask me questions. One of the questions was essentially “Do you have a finance person that helps decide when to build a new product?” I quickly said that we didn’t have a finance person help us decide and that it was still based on a gut decision and customer driven input.

This provided a good segue into describing what I think is necessary for new product development and what I think our core competency is as a company. As for a new software product, assuming you are already following Steve Blank’s advice, I think it is critical to have a domain expert product manager and a separate lead developer software engineer. With today’s awesome web app frameworks, a small, two person team can really put together a prototype of just about anything. In my company, I believe our core competency can be distilled down to three main areas:

  • Scalable web applications
  • Online lead generation and marketing
  • High quality customer service

So, while I don’t have more specifics on deciding to build a new product, I look at what we do best generally, solicit feedback on the idea from internal and external stakeholders, and then make a decision one way or another. Also, don’t be afraid to kill a product if it isn’t going to be successful. We stopped development of a product over two years ago after working on it for several months, and we should have stopped even sooner.

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