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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Solution Designing

New solution designing has always been challenging and when the goal is to replace a successful existing solution then the challenge doubles up. It is an opportunity worth million dollar that only few get to experience. Such initiatives  are mostly taken up by the organizations to replace legacy solutions or when they plan to capture new markets /customers.

I was lucky to get one such million dollar opportunity sometime back, learning from which is what I am sharing in this blog post.

Steps for designing new solutions
  1. Study existing solutions: Know what is there already in the market. Study existing products that are being used to provide solutions and have detailed understanding of them before you even think of doing anything else. It is a very important step for the simple reason that you should not end-up designing something that is similar to what is already available to customers. The goal while designing a new solution is to provide something better than what is available. The good and bad of existing solution also helps you in avoiding situations wherein you spend significant part of your time in reinventing the wheel.

  2. Understand pain points: Talk to people who are involved in delivery services using existing product, they could be from operations, sales / pre-sales, customer support or from any other functional arm. Map all process flows in flow charts, identify time consuming process that are large and also under why are they so. Consolidate all pain points and ensure that these pain points are addressed in your new solution design. Understand that the one of the most pressing need of new solution is pain points of existing solution.

  3. Explore limitations: While pain points are to do with core-functions (purpose) of the product, limitations are to do with technology and/ or integration  What extra you could have done if the system supported certain additional features (functional or non-functional). They limit product expansion or they hold solving problems beyond the core functionality of the product, something which might have otherwise given your competitive advantage. This could be some integration or some new emerging trends in existing market. Limitations can also be futuristic, something like, "if this happens then my existing system may not supported the situation". Identify all such limitations (present and futuristic) and ensure that you do not carry them in your new solution design.

  4. Assess Market Maturity Levels: This refers to maturity levels of target market, user community in target market, competition, legal and compliance, adoption and ecosystem. This is very important aspect of new solution design since it decides what is new, what is out-date and what is too early in the solution design. Imagine you are trying to sell a car even before no fuel was invented. In this case though car is a very useful but pulling car with horses or buffalo would not make sense. So do not invent something that cannot be sold or something that is too early in the market. At the same time do not launch an out-dated or out of compliance solutions in existing market.

  5. Competing and Complimenting products: Know your competing and complimenting products. Do not design anything that may harm products that compliment your solution and Do not design anything that gives advantage to your competing products. If these aspects are NOT taken care of, then you are most likely to add more competing products and will have fewer complimenting products. Needless to say that such a situation will adversely effect your market position.

Precautions taken care in conceptualization stage helps in designing a effective solution that in turn enables you to be a market leader in your space. A minor error in doing homework will take your years back, loss of investment and market reputation. A product manager, a product owner must ensure that mentions areas are studied, understood and analyzed to perfection before he/ she takes the brush to design the new solution.


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