3rd November 2020
We’re all looking for ways to cut down production time and deliver more with less. This is especially true for those building digital products, where the sudden increase in need for digital shopfronts and products has created unprecedented demand - but with tight budgets and unforgiving deadlines. While it may be tempting, simply asking your teams to work harder, longer and faster to meet this requirement isn’t sustainable and will almost always lead to burnout and staff loss if applied over the long term. Cutting waste from your processes, however, will both increase productivity and improve staff morale – you just need to identify where your inefficiencies are. To help you get started, here are five of the most common time wasters in digital product development.
1. You’re building digital products that no-one will use
Nothing wastes time like working on products that your customers aren’t interested in or that aren’t fit for purpose. To avoid this, your digital product development workflow should include multiple rounds of customer testing and feedback, starting as early as possible and continuing throughout the process to guide the design and development of the feature or product you’re working on. By developing iteratively in this way, you will allow your potential users to shape and inform the end product, which helps ensure that it’s well received when it’s finally released to market.
2. You can’t see the trees for the wood / You need to create a product backlog
It’s easy to become overwhelmed and paralysed by indecision when you’re faced with a big and complex task, but a simple change in perspective is often all that’s necessary to unblock productivity. By breaking a big product development project down into simpler, individual features, estimating how much resource is needed to complete each of them, and then prioritising the features that offer the biggest business benefit first, it becomes much easier to tackle what initially appeared to be an insurmountable project. This prioritised list is often referred to as a product backlog and can include new features or tools as well as bugs, but it needs to be carefully managed to ensure that you’re prioritising the right tasks and that you aren’t missing dependencies that could derail your progress.
3. Rework is taking up too much time
Some rework is unavoidable during any product development, but an efficient process should aim to minimise the amount of time spent on rewriting code or fixing defects. One of the ways to do this is through regular user testing to identify problems as early as possible and rectify them at the feature level before they’re integrated into the wider project. Reducing the amount of handoffs between different teams during development also means there will be less opportunity for problems to creep in, for example: rather than having one team design the product and then hand it over to developers to build, you might make one collaborative, multi-skilled team responsible for the full design and development of a specific feature. But bear in mind that collaboration can easily become a time waster if it’s not managed with the right tools and techniques.
4. The solution is unnecessarily complex
Otherwise known as over-engineering. Almost every digital product has the same end goal – to make our customers’ lives and interactions with products or brands simple. But sometimes we lose sight of this intention and create powerful tools and advanced capabilities that are simply not necessary for what we’re trying to achieve. It may not even be necessary to create a new product - rather than being seduced by shiny new things we should first investigate whether we can reuse or repurpose existing products to provide the functionality we’re looking for.
5. Your team is distracted
Every one of us starts the day with a finite amount of energy and software design and development requires a lot of this cognitive capability or “fuel.” If your team is in a noisy environment with constant distractions, or is working on a number of different projects at the same time, swapping their attention from one to the other, this will decrease their ability to focus and deliver. Even simple distractions like email and social media drain our energy and sabotage productivity. By reducing the amount of distractions, ensuring that teams are focussed on one project at a time and eliminating dependencies that can block their ability to complete the task, you can create a hyper-efficient work environment.
Fittingly, the simplest way to cut waste from your process is to adopt a “lean approach” to digital product development, and most of the recommendations we’ve made above relate in some way to this methodology. We hope that the tips we’ve shared here help you to start realising the benefits of this approach, to find out more about the principles of lean development and how to implement them in your organisation, sign up for ORM’s “Take Action: go lean in development” webinar now