poor product design

 Poor Product Design

The Four P’s Of Marking: Price, Place, Promotion, And Product

Poor product design plays a big factor in startups failure. There’s a reason why a product is said to be the most important part of the marketing mix. In today’s world of cut-throat competition, producers have no alternative but to compete for the best offering in the market. Don’t mistakenly assume the other P’s can save you — inferior products cannot sustain on hype alone. Eventually, word will spread that what you’re selling isn’t worth the price.

Every year, thousands of startups fail due to offering a poor product. So, how do we ensure that our product is better than anything else on the market? We must step into the customer’s shoes and understand what makes or breaks a product. A product is your offering to the market, and you have to execute perfectly on the design, features, user experience, timing of the launch, and promotion.

Factors Of A Successful And Poor Product Design

  • Value: Your product needs to offer more value than what you’re asking for in price. Value can be in terms of utility (usefulness), quality, customer service, design, and brand value. Customers should always feel like they are getting more than their money’s worth. Create more value for your customer than anyone else, and you’ll be successful.
  • Pricing: Failure to price a product correctly accounts for roughly 1/5th of startup failures, according to CB Insights. Price too low and your profit margins will disappear. Price too high, and you kill sales. The price point of your product significantly affects your revenue, so it’s important to get it right.
  • Timing: The same study by CB Insights found a mistimed product launch accounted for 13 percent of startup failures. The market, whether they know it or not, must be ready for the product. If you’re too early to market, people will struggle to see how your product relates to their lives and needs. Entering too late into a market can mean giving your competitors an insurmountable lead. However, if you time your launch just right and compliment it with the right promotion, you’ll have people saying “I’ve got to have that!”

Case Study: The Not-So-Magical Smartphone

General Magic was a hot tech startup of the 90s. They developed a handheld device— like a PDA, but with a touch interface and focused on communications. They essentially produced the first smartphone. However, despite technological breakthroughs, the final product was found lacking. The “phones” it made by partnering up with giants such as Sony, Motorola, and AT&T were not user-friendly. These large, heavy devices had screens that were difficult to read in the sun. And starting at $800, the price was far out of reach for the average consumer.

Although achieving significant advances in the communications technology sector, the usability issues and high price kept General Magic’s hotly anticipated device from reaching mass adoption.

Case Study: South Korean Success

Samsung is one of the largest companies in the world in terms of revenue. The conglomerate is the parent company of Samsung Electronics, Samsung Heavy Industries, Samsung C&T, and Samsung Engineering, Samsung Life Insurance, and more. Through careful planning, market research, and innovation, Samsung has created ultra-successful products. In the 2000s, Samsung went from being nowhere in the smartphone business to climbing to the top mobile phone manufacturer. By creating an incredible amount of value for consumers, Samsung has managed to capture nearly 50% of the Android-run smartphone business.

Importance Of Market Research

Importance Of Market Research

 

In order to be successful, you must inspire the market to purchase what you’re selling. This becomes incredibly difficult if nobody has any use for your product! The importance of market research is critical as a startup. Too many businesses have failed to create anything of true value for the market. In an analysis by CB Insights, nearly half of all startup failures were due to lack of market need.

Importance Of Market Research

As confident as you may be in your idea or product, thorough market research is a must for any startup. There is simply no point in developing a product or service nobody will want. Market research must include establishing the need for your product, the competition, suppliers, relevant laws & regulations, information about the target demographic, etc.

You can’t assume people will want what you sell. Market research, feasibility studies, and focus group testing help to challenge your hypotheses. If you’re wrong about the market, it is absolutely crucial to find this out ASAP. If you’re on the right path, this data can also help tremendously in securing funding by demonstrating real demand for your product.

“The greatest tragedy of mankind is people holding on to wrong opinions… ” — Ray Dalio

So how do we get this right? Let’s start off by taking a look at a prime example of how to get it wrong by ignoring market need.

Case Study: Zune’d For Failure

Microsoft launched the Zune in 2006, the Zune HD in 2009, and by 2011 the brand was discontinued. Zune was launched as a direct competitor to Apple’s iPod. Despite the aggressive marketing efforts by Microsoft, it had little success. The problem with Zune was that it offered nothing new to customers. Apple was already miles ahead of Zune in terms of technology, and there was no need for an alternative MP3 player. The iPod was first to market and Zune was never able to convince consumers to make a switch.

Lack of market killed Zune, and Microsoft failed to anticipate this due to a lack of market research.

Importance of market research

Don’t let this good-looking stud fool you — Microsoft is not cool or trendy. These two words are generally reserved to describe Apple. Thus, their marketing efforts were focused on people who didn’t identify with the iPod. However, at this time most consumers either had the iPod or wanted the iPod. Microsoft was left with a rather small pool of potential customers. Not so good.

All in all, market research wouldn’t have turned the Zune into an overnight success, but it could have revealed the Zune’s likely failure. Microsoft might’ve avoided wasting time and money, or at least have produced a product people wanted.

Now let’s look at a company whose market research paid off enormously.

Case Study: Finger-Lickin’ Good Market Research

Importance of market research

Kentucky Fried Chicken, more affectionately known as KFC, found its biggest market quite a ways from home — China. After opening the first store in 1987, and now with more than 5,600 locations and $5 billion in revenue in 2017, it has been warmly embraced by the country’s new generation. Fun fact: no other foreign fast-food chain enjoys this kind of success. KFC grabbed an 11.6 percent share while McDonald holds only 5.6 percent. The key to KFC’s success? Quite literally, it’s menu!

Just like this guy, KFC knows what’s up. Before entering China, KFC knew their traditional menu loved by so many in the United States wouldn’t work at all in the new territory. So a complete overhaul was initiated, creating a menu unlike anything in the US. Options such as shrimp sandwiches, matcha ice cream, congee, and soy sauce wings allow KFC China to cater to the new audience’s tastes and preferences. In a country where others were struggling to find decent footing, KFC trumped them all, thanks to a deep understanding of the market need.

effects of poor management

What does management mean and the effects of poor management? For Henri Fayol, the famous French founder of modern management methodology, it is “to forecast, to plan, to organize, to command, to coordinate and control activities of others.” According to Supper Club, of all the companies that failed from 2011 to 2013, poor management was to blame 50% of the time. How do companies succumb to poor management? Let’s take a deeper look to find out.

How The Effects Of Poor Management Impacts A Startup

A report from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) was able to establish clear links between poor management and startup failures. Here we list some of the ways management can be the cause behind the death of a startup.

Founders: A founders influence on the fate of a startup is hard to overstate. Disagreements amongst cofounders can result in one or, in many cases, multiple founders leaving which results in almost certain death of the business. Founders may have great ideas and limitless ambition but lack fundamental management ability. With a diverse range of responsibilities such as planning, organizing, staffing, and directing, management becomes complicated and easy to mess up. Additionally, many startup founders or small business owners do not have formal management education or training, making them even more susceptible to mistakes.

Poor decision making: Every decision has consequences. A string of consistently poor choices can culminate to technical debt and in the collapse of a company. It’s not just about consequences, however. Slow decision making can result in valuable opportunities slipping away. Ideally, decisions should be made promptly near the point of action and only by qualified personnel.

A myriad of additional reasons: Bad staffing practices, inefficient organizational structure, lack of quality leadership, and ineffective communication all have their roots in poor management.

What Are The Qualities Found In Effective Leadership?

We’ve talked about bad management practices. What about good ones? Here are some signs of healthy management:

· Consistent, constructive feedback
· Investment in the success and growth of subordinates
· Strong leadership by example
· Efficient utilization of resources
· Delegating tasks to the proper employees
· A purposeful vision for the future
· Openness to a delegation of tasks and trust of team members
· An authentic care for team morale

Case Study: Pan American Airways

Once the largest airlines in the United States, the once-iconic blue logo now shines as a reminder for the pitfalls of bad management. How did Pan Am, the largest international air carrier from 1927–1991, fail? A long string of poor business decisions by the management led to its downfall. Critics say that after the departure of Juan Trippe, the company started going downhill. A decline in the quality of customer service was the first sign. Foreign travelers began to avoid flying with Pan Am, and eventually, even Americans followed suit.

In 1980, Pan Am bought National Airlines for its North-South routes but made a series of mistakes. For one, they grossly overpaid for the acquisition due to a price war with another airline. Pan Am also bought a number of aircrafts that were not compatible with their operations. Finally, they failed to create a strong domestic hub. The whole deal was hasty and poorly handled.

Despite managing to eventually sell Pacific Division at a good price to settle debts, they were never able to capitalize on the sale due to painfully slow decision making. All this combined with their inability to adapt to changes in regulation, the crippled company crawled to failure.

Case Study: The Toyota Way

How did Toyota, at one point the largest car manufacturer in the world, manage to rise to the top? It had a system in place, designed to provide employees with tools to improve their work. These 14 principles are known as the ‘Toyota Way’:

  1. Base decisions on a Long-Term Philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial gain
  2. Create a continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface, eliminating waste through the process of continual improvement
  3. Use ‘pull’ systems (where a process signals the demand to its predecessor) to avoid overproduction
  4. Level out the workload to create consistency
  5. Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time
  6. Standardize tasks & processes for continuous improvement and employee empowerment
  7. Make problems visual so they cannot be hidden
  8. Use only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and processes
  9. Grow leaders who thoroughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others
  10. Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy
  11. Respect your extended network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve
  12. Go and see for yourself to thoroughly understand the situation
  13. Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options; implement decisions rapidly
  14. Become a learning organization through relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen)

Bringing it all together

Many startups have failed due to the limited management abilities of the founders and leaders. Whether from internal conflict, poor strategy, or just a general lack of vision, if leadership cannot provide a strong foundation, failure is all but inevitable. However, with knowledge, cooperation, and strategy, leadership can inspire team members to grow and excel through leading by example.

competitive landscape

competitive landscape

Competitive Landscape

A recent study conducted by CB Insights analyzed the post-mortems of 101 failed startups. Roughly a fifth of these startups failed due to the competitive landscape. Although competition isn’t necessarily always a startup killer, failure to adapt in a competitive landscape can mean certain death for your company.

When facing a lot of direct competition, there are certain steps you must take to cement your market standing. Failure to do so could seal your company’s fate amongst the 90% that never make it. To stand out from the crowd, one must offer something new or something much better than what already exists. Taking your competitors into account and developing a proper marketing strategy is crucial. Perhaps most importantly, the product must be priced just right. This becomes more complicated as competitors attempt to undercut each other in an effort to lure customers.

If you’re a pioneer and first to the market, you’ll need to take a different approach. You need to make it hard for potential competitors to enter the market by creating barriers to entry. These include patents, government rights, access to specific distribution channels, economies of scale, etc.

While ignoring the competition is a recipe for disaster, obsessing over it is not healthy either. The mission should be to provide as much value as possible to the customer. As long as you can find better ways to give more to your customers, you will have a bright future ahead.

Case Study: Failing To Adapt To Competition

What happens when a company fails to properly respond to market competition? It could lead to massive debt and eventual collapse. The massive toy store chain Toys-R-Us in late 2017 experienced just this.

It began with a 10-year partnership with Amazon wherein Toys-R-Us would pay Amazon $50 million a year plus a percentage of sales to serve as the exclusive vendor. Due to the success of the partnership, Amazon began allowing other toy vendors into their ecosystem. Ultimately, Toys-R-Us sued Amazon and attempted to launch its own website to sell toys online. By this time, it was already too late. Toys-R-Us failed to establish its own online presence and couldn’t compete with other online retailers’ prices. The plummeting sales and mounting debt left Toys-R-Us with no choice but to file for bankruptcy in late 2017.

Failing to adapt to competition without a roadmap can also mean failure.  It is important to have technical expertise in assisting you with your plans and goals. 

Case Study: Staying Focused And Coming Out On Top

In a market completely saturated with powerhouse players like Microsoft, Apple, and Google, one humble company managed to beat them all. We’re talking about online cloud storage service Dropbox. How did they manage to come out alive and on top in a market that took so many startups to the grave?

Dropbox launched in 2007 with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) which was enough to capture many hearts. The founders continually improved their product by seeking out and responding to feedback. Dropbox offered an abundance of value by providing 2GB of free storage. This led to millions of users joining the platform and establishing Dropbox as the leader in the space. Despite the competition, they were able to position themselves above the rest through excellent execution. Sticking to that attitude, Dropbox has reached a current valuation of over $10 billion.

10x engineer

10x engineer

Rockstar developer. Ninja. 10x engineer. Hyperbolic names for a mythic individual — the superhuman who is worth 10 times the value of a normal engineer. But is this just a myth? Can any one person do the work of 10?

Who Is A 10x Engineer?

The term comes from a study conducted in 1968 by Sackman, Erikson, and Grant (1). Their data showed more than a 10-fold difference between the best and the worst programmer. While the label “10x” is figurative, the difference in performance can be anywhere from 5x to 25x.

A Common Misconception

It’s not the engineer’s coding ability or raw pace alone that accounts for the massive difference in performance. It’s the engineer’s ability to come up with superior solutions to complex problems that set her or him apart. A 10x engineer is able to get higher quality results because they make better decisions than the average worker.

A 10x engineer should not be mistaken as someone who just writes code faster than others. A Hastily written code can lead to mistakes and redundancies — costly issues that will inevitably need to be addressed. The 10x engineer knows the most efficient solution to a given problem resulting in less code and fewer errors.

Related: What is technical debt?

Real Life Or Just Fantasy?

There is debate as to whether or not 10x engineers actually exist. Consider Michael Schumacher, Floyd Mayweather Jr, and Usain Bolt. These athletes dominated their respective fields. It isn’t hard to see how their abilities were orders of magnitude superior to those of their weakest competitors. Even at the Olympics where the best in the world square off, we see a significant gap between first and last place.

10x engineer
Charles Deluvio

The original study conducted in 1968 is often attacked by critics on grounds on flawed methodology. Since 1968 however, quite a few other studies have come to the same conclusion: “There are order-of-magnitude differences among programmers” (2).

Let’s Talk Benefits

Having a large programming team can complicate communication. This can slow down the decision-making process, resulting in missed opportunities. Large teams can experience frequent conflict and unproductive disagreements. A team of 10x engineers — more focused, less prone to conflicts, and more efficient — will almost always yield better results.

A 10x-er does more than code. She or he can be an inspiration to the rest of the team, helping others by guiding, motivating, and teaching better ways of working. Having such a skilled engineer on your team will increase competency and keep enthusiasm high.

When you hire someone who knows what they are doing, you save money. An expert doesn’t need to require instructions at every step. They’re less likely than an average programmer to make mistakes. Their experience makes them more efficient, consuming fewer company resources.

Summary

10x engineers do exist. They are individuals who have superior experience, talent, and intuition. When you can recognize the qualities and features of a 10x engineer, your hiring quality improves. You’ll set a strong foundation that can take your company to new heights.

Neon
Neon

We interviewed Gillian Delaunay, founder and CEO of NEON to find out how she’s empowering ordinary internet users to get paid for their data.

“…data is being sold without our consent and it’s a billion dollar industry…other people are making money off our participation…we are trying to do something that changes that pathway…so people like you and me are making that money back.”

Listen to the complete interview here: https://sup.pm/NEON

Each time you browse online, you freely give away valuable information. This data is sold to internet marketers who use it to target you with promotional ads. Shouldn’t there be a way for you and I to be compensated for our data? Now there is.

NEON is pioneering a new platform that allows you to regain control and earn points from your own demographic data which can be converted into cash or rewards. By completing a brief questionnaire, you can discover what ‘color’ you are. (https://www.theneonid.com/take-test). Once activated, you’ll earn rewards for simply doing what you already do.

So my data is still being sold? What about my privacy? Your data is being sold already, you’re just missing out on a cut from the pie. With the NEON extension allows you to browse anonymously while still earning rewards. Want to know about upcoming events in your city? See events filtered by what you’re most likely to enjoy based on your color profile.

Your information is valuable. It’s time you got paid for it.

What is technical debt

What is technical debt

What Is Technical Debt:

Technical debt is the result of the compromise you make in the quality of your work in order to save time and money upfront. Imagine you’re launching a new product but the development of your software is incomplete. You can’t afford to wait until it’s perfect…so what do you do? You’re left with two options.

You take the time necessary to write the fully functioning code with zero mistakes, or you write code that’s ‘just good enough’ to launch on time.

What is technical debt

The time and money “saved” by taking the second route results in technical debt. Why is saved is quotes? You’re borrowing time & money and eventually, you’re going to have to pay it back to fix your messy code.

As your development progresses, interest will accrue in the form of work that you’ll have to perform to fix it. Just like traditional debt, the compounding interest gets tougher and tougher to pay off.

Is Technical Debt Bad?

Not always. Imagine you’re leasing property for a business. You take out a loan because you can’t pay in cash. As you generate income, you repay the principal plus interest. Eventually, the loan is paid off and you continue to profit from your business thanks to your ability to initially borrow funds.

“So technical debt is good and I should get my product out there as soon as possible, right?”

Not exactly. We’re not done with the loan analogy just yet.

Imagine you decided to lease a larger property for your business. You take out a larger loan with higher interest amounts, leaving you with less money to spend on the rest of your operation. If you fail to become profitable, you’re caught in a debt trap. Same goes with development — take on more debt than you can handle, and you’ll join the start-up graveyard.

What Is The Cost Of Technical Debt?

Eventually, you’ll need to fix that “just good enough” code. Interest accumulates over time in the form of maintenance costs, and the messy code base will undoubtedly cause problems. You’re going to have to repay that time and money you borrowed to fit it.

It’s almost impossible to calculate how much interest you’re going to be paying in order to keep your system up and running. This is why you should repay the principal amount by refactoring your original messy code into better, cleaner code as soon as possible.

Finding A Sensible Level Of Technical Debt.

There’s no doubt that accruing technical debt can cause problems for your business down the line. In this fast-paced industry, it’s not always possible to ship the perfect product when you’re racing against time. While you may not have an alternative to taking on technical debt, you can decide HOW MUCH of it you’re going to have.

The best way to manage technical debt is to confront it right from the start. Take the necessary steps to ensure that you’re not setting yourself up for a massive headache in the future. Consider the benefits of moving quickly in light of the unavoidable future costs.

If this is your first business or you’re unsure of what the best way forward is, you’re not alone. Find a service that can help you properly plan your development without taking on a lethal level of technical debt.

Related: What is a solution architect?

Starting a business can be rewarding yet challenging. With limited time and money, you want to make the best decisions you can to increase your chances of success. By understanding the benefits and costs of technical debt, you will be better prepared for the long-term success and health of your company.

What is a solution architect

What is a solution architect

Solution Definition:

Before we dive into talking about what is a solution architect, let’s start by defining a solution. Quite simply, a solution is an answer to a problem. For a solution to have value, it must provide a measurable improvement to the situation at hand. A good solution will be the result of a collaborative effort, agreed upon by all decision makers involved.

What Is A Solution Architecture?

In business, solution architecture is the translation of a project’s desired outcome into a solution document. The solution document identifies all the relevant technical components, roles, processes, and tasks that the project demands.

Each of these relevant domains (such as business, data, application, technology, integration, and security) must be addressed. This means identifying the unique demands and desired deliverables of each domain.

What is a solution architect

 

For example, imagine you are building an app for users to sell antiques to strangers. A proper solution document will in part, address:

The user experience — What does a typical buyer or seller do on the app? What is the flow of their activity? How does the app look and respond to their motives?

  • The technology used in development — Is the app designed for Android, iOS, or both? What 3rd-party integrations are used? Location services? Mobile payments? Messaging? How do users authenticate their products as legitimate?
  • The security features — Fingerprint reader? User accounts and passwords?
  • The data — Where is the user information stored? How does the app interact with the data for listed items?

As you can see, there are numerous moving pieces to address. Even a simple app, in theory, can demand the skills of a dozen experienced experts. A proper approach to a solution will leave no technical area left untouched.

What Is The Role Of A Solution Architect?

The solution architect puts together the master plan. Like an architect of real estate, they create a document that serves as a master guide for creating a service or product. Their broad range of technical expertise and experience in numerous disciplines allows them to view the project from a bird’s eye view.

Their work can include ideation, research, design, and implementation of the proposed solution. During ideation, the context for a solution is considered. The desired outcome is seen in light of the current environment. A client says to the architect “This is where we are, and this is where we want to be”. The vision is given, and the solution can begin to take shape.

The solution architect elaborates potential options for moving forward. Research is done to help discover which path is best. If any extra information is needed, the architect can reach out to 3rd parties for relevant details.

The solution architect then selects the optimal strategy and develops the roadmap for the selected solution. The roadmap guides the development team responsible for implementing the plan.

Related: What makes a development roadmap so useful?

Benefits Of Utilizing A Solution Architect:

In 2009, a study analyzed the value of solution architecture on software development (1). Usage of solution architecture within software development projects was found to be correlated with the following effects:

  • 19% decrease in project budget overrun
  • Increased predictability of project budget planning
  • 40% decrease in project time overrun
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • 10% increase of results delivered
  • Increased technical fit of the project results

Ultimately, in a world where only 16% of custom software development projects deliver their results according to plan (2), the use of solution architecture can help overcome the biggest roadblocks faced.

Development Roadmap

Development Roadmap

Development Roadmap

A development roadmap defines the goals of your project and the tasks needed to complete it. It provides a complete high-level view of how to take your project from idea to reality. A roadmap defines where you want to go and how to get there.

Careful planning is crucial to the success of any project. With a clear understanding of a project’s tasks and obstacles, you’re more prepared for success. A roadmap helps by identifying the following:

  • Technical requirements
  • Project tasks, budgets, and milestones
  • Hiring requirements

Technical Requirements (Also Known As The Technical Stack):

There are a million ways to skin a cat…but only a few best methods for building your product. Your particular project will likely have 1 or 2 best-suited tools for each component. These often include programming languages, frameworks, and integrations. All these tools used together constitute your tech stack. You’ll need a qualified expert to help select which ones to use for the best outcome.

Project Tasks:

Although a project may look complicated, it’s not rocket science. Unless you’re a rocket scientist. Each project goal can break down into smaller tasks to complete, ensuring team members have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. Some tasks may only take weeks to complete. Others may take months. Either way, it’s important to take an organized and sensible approach to completion. Qualified experts in the field can identify all tasks for a given project. This will give an accurate timeline for completion.

Required talent

Having a development roadmap is crucial for success. If you don’t have one for your project, you’re likely to run into issues you’re not prepared for. What if you have a brilliant idea, but lack technical skills or business expertise? You can seek the help of a Silicon Valley veteran, like the ones at SUPERTEAM, Inc to put together a custom tailored a development roadmap for your project.

With you roadmap in hand, you’ll be prepared to take the biggest step of any journey: getting started.