Three Key Steps to an Intelligent Digital Product Strategy

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Compass on log pointing north to waterfall

Whether developing custom software, a web application, or a mobile app, a strong digital product strategy — often referred to as strategic discovery — takes the reasoning behind a great idea and converts it into an actionable plan with clear goals.

Digital product development approached with a thoughtful strategy maximizes value for clients and users alike, while resulting in faster and more effective design and development phases.

Most clients might not realize they’ve often already made an initial strategic decision in reaching out to a software or web developer. Whether they want to better position themselves in the market, enhance customer experiences, reduce operational costs, or embark on another digital transformation initiative, companies need to define their digital product strategy so it is practical and actionable.

Primary research, user interviews, and user testing are among the key elements that comprise a digital strategy, yet digital product managers say they aren’t spending enough time talking to customers, according to a survey of product owners by Alpha’s 2019 Product Management Insights Report. More than half also don’t create a product roadmap. Stakeholder interviews, customer service log analysis, secondary research, and app, website or business analytics analysis are other common elements of a strong digital product strategy that are often overlooked.

When working with a software, mobile, or web app consultancy to craft a digital product strategy, consider these three key steps. While there are many additional steps that a comprehensive digital strategy typically involves, these three are some of the most common.

Goals and Objectives

Product development teams can determine goals and objectives using a range of inputs, including secondary research, workshops with stakeholders, and primary research. Then those goals and objectives should ultimately be ranked to inform a prioritized product roadmap.

Clients should work with a digital product agency to explore both business and user goals, ultimately arriving at balanced digital solutions that meet both. Partnering with an experienced consulting firm helps clients determine how the end software, mobile, or web application that is designed addresses those goals, including such things as how it will streamline a client’s operations, enhance manufacturing efficiency, improve supply chain efficiency, bring value to customers, or drive sales.

User Interviews

A great strategic inspiration for new software, mobile, or web apps is often the customers or end users themselves. While user research is increasingly important to the product design and development process, businesses aren’t taking enough time to talk to users. Digital product agencies understand how to build this time into the process.

It may appear straightforward to figure out what users want: accomplishing a set number of ame across various desktop and mobile devices. Yet if it were simple, user interviews wouldn’t be necessary.

A robust user interview includes well-crafted, open-ended questions that aren’t afraid to address all facets of an application. Many times questions will explore experiences around the app and the context in which is is used, not just the application itself and its features and functions. Often digital product strategists discover users have a different perspective of the problem, and that insight can be used to inform product design, resulting in a more effective and meaningful final product.

User Testing

Equally important is user testing. Digital product development teams, after reflecting upon learnings gathered during strategic discovery, begin to shape the application by creating user journey stories, wireframes, or often functioning prototypes. The team will then iteratively test those stories, wireframes, or prototypes at various points in the design process. Insights at this phase should be concrete, detailed, and actionable.

At the end of the day, businesses that take the time to determine goals and objectives, lead user interviews, and conduct user testing create applications that better meet business and user needs and avoid obstacles that otherwise might arise. An intelligent, articulated vision backed by robust user feedback orients the digital product development team and can keep disciplines — strategy, user experience, design, engineering, and QA — aligned throughout the process. Businesses that work with digital product consultants on these strategic steps ultimately save both time and money.

DockYard is a digital product agency offering exceptional strategy, design, full stack engineering, web app development, custom software, Ember, Elixir, and Phoenix services, consulting, and training. With a nationwide staff, we’ve got consultants in key markets across the United States, including Seattle, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Austin, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.