This month, we’re diving into the product development process. More specifically, we’ll focus on some of the practices that effective product managers (like ours) employ to innovate faster and maximize business impact for insurance carriers.
Keys to highly effective product development
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Hannah Clark, Editor of The Product Manager, to talk about my approach to product management, and some of the experiences that have informed that approach.
I’d like to share some of that here as well, but with a finer point on how our approach at Bestow translates into delivering results for our insurance carrier partners. So, with that in mind, here are a few keys to the highly effective product development process at Bestow.
Align on the problem, preferably through data
Building consensus on the key problem you’re looking to solve is critical, though sometimes taken for granted. To be clear, this doesn’t mean you must achieve group consensus at the very beginning! A cross-functional collection of teams should be ready to “disagree and commit” to test out ideas for solutions, but they must eventually align on the problem itself, or they risk building a solution that does not solve the core problem.
To identify the problem, a data-driven approach is critical; without it, priorities will be driven purely by whoever has the strongest opinion or by anecdotal stories that aren’t necessarily representative of reality. At Bestow, we use data to help us identify our customers’ challenges and opportunities for improvement. This helps us identify the real problem, test solutions, and measure results.
Prioritize speed without sacrificing quality
Product development is about creating something new and innovative, which often means doing something nobody has done before. Before launching a product, it’s easy to get stuck in analysis paralysis, worrying about whether you’ve picked the proper set of features or if you will be successful. Many things can only be learned by putting a product in the wild and seeing how your customers react. Of course, you should minimize significant risks and use critical thinking, but the longer you take to get something in the market, the more you increase your risk of building the wrong thing without market feedback.
At the same time, emphasizing speed to market does not have to mean sacrificing quality. A better way to frame the tradeoff is by choosing between speed and scope. In most cases, you can deliver a product to customers by reducing the scope to the critical components that address their essential needs without compromising quality. At Bestow, we carefully balance speed and scope with every Enterprise partner we launch. Even the simplest-looking insurance product can quickly grow in scope when you get a closer look, so we balance timeliness and thoroughness to launch platform solutions on time that deliver meaningful value to our Enterprise partners.
You can read more in the full interview here, but I want to wrap this up with the one point that guides these and all the other tenets of excellent product development practices: you have to start with your customers’ needs first. It sounds cliche, but it’s just the truth. Burdening your customers with your tech debt or with products and processes that don’t address their key needs is a surefire recipe for attrition in the long term. Customer expectations are higher than ever, and their options more plentiful. A customer-first mentality will not only help rally decision-makers around a key problem, it will dramatically increase the potential of your product’s success.
Q & A with Tyler Blake, Lead Product Manager
Q: What does Bestow mean by “test and learn” product development?
A: The test and learn approach is something I believe differentiates Bestow in the marketplace; it’s part of what makes us a true partner to carriers rather than merely a software vendor.
The first and sometimes hidden aspect of this approach is our in-market experience launching and innovating D2C and advisor-led insurance products. This provides us with invaluable insights which then become benefits passed on to our carrier partners. It’s the kind of proof of concept you can’t fake.
The second aspect is about harnessing speed to market to begin gathering data. You could spin your wheels for years trying to develop a product that meets some extremely specific criteria, but chances are the market has changed before you even know if your product works. Instead, strategically limiting scope allows for rapid development and quicker market response, which can then be leveraged quickly into data-informed product innovations. Test, learn, adapt, repeat. It’s a perpetual process that, if followed, will help you stay ahead of the market.