Product development without drama (but first the mistakes)
It was exciting to see Dr. G at work. Patient after patient. Using our baby to go about his day. Yes, we had made life easy through our product. Innovated where it mattered.
I was at Dr. G's surgery center. He was using our latest product (it's called enkiendoscopy report writer). Software for gastroenterologists like him who fix people's guts in the endoscopy room.
He was clicking on his endoscope and the images would magically appear over the cloud into enki. Then he would finish up, document his notes. Move onto the next case.
After awhile, I left the center. Making copious notes for our next version.
Now, little did Dr. G know the role he played in our product development. Interestingly, his role holds the key to developing products without drama.
First the mistakes (ahem)
We made many mistakes during our product adventures. Here are a few.
1) Obsession with perfection. We wanted our first product (enki electronic health record software) to be perfect. We designed and redesigned. We created prototypes. Showed it to clients. Developed mobile apps on both iOS and Android. Completed certifications.
By the time we were done, we spent double the time. Triple the cost.
As a business, we simply got lucky. We had revenues from services to fund our obsessions. Plus, the product today serves as the base platform for our other products.
In retrospect, a functional beta would've been just enough.
2) Underestimating cost of marketing and sales. By the time we completed development, we spent every penny on product development. Grossly underestimating what it takes to market and sell in the healthcare industry.
While large medical devices companies spent 20+% on cost of sales, we barely scratched that surface.
And no, people are too busy to go talking about your product on their own (think how many times you've done that with the best of products you use).
3) Innovating for the heck of it. Much after our launch, we extended our product to Google Glass (remember those?). We spent many development weeks tinkering on stuff like that.
While it was a lot of fun, our doctors weren't really interested in accessing their medical records using Glass. Of course, people cheered but not with their money.
That time and money could've found better use in marketing and sales.
4) Using Apple-esque thinking of ignoring customers. We thought we knew better. That we'd teach the world what they should be doing.
When we launched, our customers behaved differently than we anticipated. Our assumption of their primary objective was authenticity of information. But their primary objective, as it turned out, was speed of information completion.
It took expensive development time to correct course.
Product development without drama
Back to Dr. G, the gastroenterologist. You could say we were in the right place at the right time.
They were already our billing clients. And when they were in trouble with their vendor, we stepped in to implement our electronic health record at their center.
After a few months, we noticed that Dr. G started playing with a little module that we developed on the side. It captured images and stored it on the cloud.
That small observation led us to observe the market through his lens. We saw that the gastroenterology world had two big problems. Really old software. Really expensive software.
We knew we could do better.
Instead of repeating our mistake of developing without listening, we reversed our lens. We developed the product for Dr. G - exactly like he wanted. His priorities became our priorities. We scratched away everything else.
Then we did something unusual for us.
We released a semi-baked product. That's not a beauty. But something that did its core functions very well.
When we knew the endoscopy report writer worked for Dr. G, only then we completed the rest of our development. Completed certification. Launched it. We even saved up money for marketing.
All we had to do next was find others like Dr. G. To go look for a market that resembled our core customer.
But here's the funny thing I realized when a hospital called us after searching online. They said our software was exactly what they needed. Function. Design. Cost.
May be you don't have to go finding the market.
You simply allow the market to find you.
By doing the right thing. Then saying clearly what you do.
But there's one more thing you have to do. Before you develop a single line of code.
That's to listen...to listen deeply to what they are saying. And not saying.