Product development silver bullet

Product development silver bullet

What is a PDLC (product development life cycle)? It’s how you gather data and requirements for your product; it's how you break that down into manageable chunks; how you iterate on it and gather continuous feedback, it's the lifeblood and internal infrastructure on how you build, ship, and improve your product.

But how?

For those that know this process, skip fwd a few paragraphs. For those totally new to the concept, this is the internal process you use at your company for how you come up with an idea, and ship it to your customers. Seems simple right?… Not that easy actually, this lifecycle includes how was this idea validated, how was it scoped (specs are written), who is going to work on this and when will it be done, how will people know about it, or how to use it, what metrics are you tracking in your internal organization that revolve around the humans building, selling or marketing this? What rails do you have in place for brainstorming, user interviews, and customer feedback? When things go wrong what do you have in place to course correct and do retrospectives that are data-driven? I could go on and on for another 20 mins and what this is but at a high-level, it looks something like this, tools and objectives vary…..

You have your product roadmap broken down into some tentative estimated timelines and objectives. Each of the large objectives needs to be broken down into manageable chunks (tasks that can be done in 1 or 2 days). This is a macro view of the microscopic parts that make up your lifecycle.

Then you zoom into the iteration timeframe. Sometimes this is done every quarter, monthly, every 2 weeks, every week, and sometimes daily delivery to customers. But at the heart of this next step, the team is planning and committing to work delivered on a timeframe and cadence.

After that, the manageable chunks that have been committed to by the team within a set timeframe and then tracked daily are their respective columns. At the end of the time cycle of the committed work.. the team will rinse and repeat forever.

But so many things, how do I know what to do?

There are a million frameworks out there for this and even more hybrids of them! How do you know what framework or process is in that magic query or quadrant of:

“This is it.. we have arrived, and are building products how we should have been all along!!”

The tools and methodology vary widely, is always happy to help guide or be your partner in this, but without a solid framework in place, you mind as well pack up and go home now.

Unfortunately, there isn't one answer to this. Anyone who has ever built a successful product(s) will tell you… even if they could have “snapshotted” that experience, it wouldn't work every time because it's not something that can be done every time to get the same result. Too many variables that are out of your control… and things are situational!!!

But for real, what's the golden ticket?

All joking aside, there is a way to break out of the mold and reap all the frameworks' benefits and cut away the situational anomalies and create a successful product offering. It's much simpler than you think. has been developing SaaS applications for early/mid-stage startups for over a decade. In all those years, we have implemented 90% of all the frameworks for product development under the sun, and we have learned 1 invaluable truth. There is no magic, only 1 tried and true way of doing it; Each methodology is the silver bullet when you line them all up and find what they all share and have in common.

I will break it down for you into actionable items that you can use right now to change the trajectory of your company.

You ship your org chart, not your product.

Anything you are shipping to customers, even if your customer is another API or service, is not the product itself. What you are actually shipping is your internal organizational structure. Sure, you have a solution that “no one else offers,” but what you are shipping at the end of the day for your service or offering is your org chart. You are shipping the strengths and deficiencies of your internal process; you are shipping everything that goes on in any given day inside your org.

Consistency and repetition are not optional.

If your planning or feature grooming meetings are on Tuesday at 11 am, there is no call more important you need to take during that time. If you have a product release schedule for every 2 weeks on Mondays, guess what? That's what, and when you do it. When anything else takes priority over this (investors, sales calls, the 88 slack msgs you have), you will fail. Consistency and repetition are not optional.

Nothing is binary; there is always a 3rd way.

All too often in the crazy world of startups (of any size); we paint ourselves into unnecessary corners due to the reactive nature of what we are building that we only see “this way” or “that way.” We become blinded to the correct solution. When you find yourself in a product lifecycle conundrum (and you will over and over), that's a great flag to say... “what's the 3rd way?”

Don't boil the ocean.

One of my favorites here. As a human race, we have the cognitive ability to see things that don't exist yet; this is a gift and a curse. We are all, especially startup folks, visionaries. We can dream and map out infrastructure for global economies, and we can fly to Mars, turn elements into energy, etc. What we fail to do most of the time is take things one step at a time. When talking about building a product that will disrupt a market… go ahead and try and boil the ocean with a grandiose plan... I'm sure the market will wait. LOLOLOL. Ship small product chunks fast and iteratively.

Define and mitigate signal vs noise.

How do you delineate what is noise and what is a signal? This is a skill set of hardcore discipline. If and when you find yourself context switching so often that you are exhausted by the end of the day, you and or your team are suffering from noise. On the other hand, Singal lets humans focus on the deep work they need to do and is the guiding pivot necessary to work in a collective, collaborative environment. Check the team's temperature daily.

Without humans, you have nothing.

We tend to forget that we have humans building and delivering our products. We tend to forget that the humans using or buying our products are also humans. Try and step back and look at this from a microscopic lens. All humans have a “job to be done”. The humans building or selling your product, the ones using/consuming/buying your product. When you find yourself stuck on any problem, no matter how complex, the most powerful tool you have in your tool belt is empathy. Look at the “job to be done” from the lens of the human tasked with doing that job. Without humans, you have nothing.

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