Product building tips for the pandemic generation of digital startups

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Would anyone disagree if I nominated 2020 for the title of the ‘Worst Year Ever”? However, despite the pandemic, or maybe because of it, the third quarter of 2020 saw a ‘once in a generation’ surge in startups. 

From crisis comes opportunity – this seems to be the mantra of this new generation of digital startups who are coming up with interesting digital-first solutions across the spectrum of consumer and enterprise needs in the much-highlighted “new normal”. And while it might seem counter-intuitive to launch a business in a pandemic, these digital startups are prying open new market opportunities that the pandemic itself has created. Most of these technology-driven startups are looking at solving real-world, pressing problems, create new business models and deliver value while leveraging the best of modern technology. 

Given that we have been building products for over two decades, here are a few product building tips for the pandemic-generation of digital startups.

Relevance and context come before technology 

Instead of a technology looking for a use-case, product building has to identify the use case and then select the right technology to deliver the impact. It is imperative to look at the context and relevance behind a product idea and identify the business problem it is trying to solve before zeroing in on technology choices. 

With the technology space overflowing with options, it can be hard to not get influenced and attracted to the shiniest technology. However, robust and strong products are built by using the ‘right’ technology, not the ‘newest’ technology. Evaluate the product needs, the usage requirements, the user demographic, the UI and UX requirements, the accessibility needs, the bandwidth, etc. to make the right technology choices that empower winning products. 

Win-gineer the products 

Product engineering needs ‘win-gineering’. Software products have to be made for scalability and high performance. They need to be robust and secure and should capably support large data-sets and a large number of users. The products should be able to scale from one level to a higher level and should be able to manage load and user surges easily. 

For this, product development has to follow stringent coding practices and also consider factors that influence performance such as the server, network speed, available bandwidth, etc. Win-gineering the products also ensures that the product can capably deal with variations in the operating environment comfortably. There is minimal damage, loss, or alteration of functionality when this happens. 

These products have to ensure that the coding practices account for latency to make sure that latency does not impact performance later. 

A good software engineering design anticipates problems such as failures, outages, and latency. It also employs strong security features and ensures interoperability and integrations with other applications and makes sure that the product has a global reach. 

Built-to last – build with evolution in mind 

Software products cannot be static monoliths if they want to survive and succeed in today’s competitive landscape. Just like how the software development process had to become agile, software products have to be agile and nimble at their core. As such software products have to follow design and coding practices that are enabling product evolution as user needs and market demands change. 

These products have to be speedy and performance-driven and yet secure. They have to be enduring and yet nimble and agile enough to allow product evolution. They have to be available and resilient and yet accommodating enough to enable change without breaking the application. 

Product development thus has to ensure that software design and architecture and coding practices are such that they can manage changes and evolution easily and can accommodate the needs of the business and the users. 

Development and code quality

It is imperative to follow healthy development practices even when the pressure to release fast keeps mounting. This means along with having good coding practices it is equally important to have an extremely strong testing and QA focus. For this, testing has to become a part of the development process and lean more towards high-end QA. 

Developers also have to avoid using conditions with too many variables and too many unused variables. A deep focus on refactoring is also important as it helps avoid code rot, spaghetti code, poor allocation of class responsibilities, and other unhealthy dependencies. 

Keeping an eye on the software architecture becomes important to avoid technical debt that can impact performance, scalability, and functionality and also impact how system parts communicate with one another. 

You-ser centric design 

The user determines the success or failure of the product. Hence, placing the user at the front and center of all product-related decisions is not an option anymore but is mandatory. Having a you-ser-centric design goes beyond the UI and UX and makes sure that along with these two very important contributors to product success, it also accounts for other variables that impact the user’s ability to complete their task. 

This becomes especially important for enterprise products being designed in the age when remote working and work from home are the new normal. The absence of heavy-duty LAN networks, lack of elaborate network connections all have to factor in to design a you-ser experience that does not fall short at any level. 

The you-ser strategy has to elevate the user experience of the end-user while also making sure that it aligns with meeting all the business goals by helping people complete their tasks faster and with greater ease. 

Laser focus on security 

Security has to be top-of-the-mind for software product development from the word ‘go’. Since modern-day applications use a lot of sensitive data (especially true for enterprise applications) and are accessed from multiple devices, operating systems, and networks, security cannot be compromised at any given time. 

Along with having robust security testing, automating security testing to increase its footprint and get greater code coverage becomes essential. Paying close attention to end-point security is another critical area to cover to make sure worries about end-point attacks and access can be safely avoided. 

In Conclusion 

Developing robust, secure, scalable, and performance-oriented software is not just about selecting technology and then embarking on a coding mission. Achieving these objectives involves taking carefully calibrated steps and decisions that impact product development positively. Thus, along with the above-mentioned points, it is equally important to leverage the depth of product development experience to take the product idea from an amorphous concept to reality. For sure, you should consider partnering with product development experts who can help your organization navigate these tricky waters and help you develop software products that see user adoption and advocacy.  

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