Product development is complex. Outcomes are unpredictable. Here are 6 reasons why.
1. A product’s success depends on it’s audience
At Metro we have millions of users who are inter-connected and who influence each other in unpredictable ways. A single influencer can make or break us on social media.
We know very little about our users. We rarely have conversations with them. We have no signups where they fill out their profile.
We have a good idea of what articles they’ll click/share, but not much idea about what product features they’ll care about.
2. Products faces tough competition.
It’s not enough for a product to be good, it has to be competitive.
We compete for Google rankings. We compete for a slot in Facebook news feeds. We compete for ad revenue. We compete to be a destination.
We compete for attention in an attention-saturated world.
3. Products rely on ever-changing platforms like Facebook and Google
The ecosystem is constantly shifting. Here are just a few of the recent shifts…
- Facebook launched Instant Articles, Facebook Live, chatbots, and Facebook Stories. Facebook Instants is continually evolving.
- Apple launched Apple News, then moved from RSS to JSON syndication
- Google Search rolled out six major updates in 2016
- Google launched AMP and it’s changing fast
- Snapchat launched Discover
- Google Newsstand is adding Omniture support
- iPhone embraced adblock. Chrome is about to embrace it.
4. Technology is constantly changing
Social media changed the game. Mobile changed the game.
Riding the mobile wave increased Metro’s traffic by 161%. What’s the next wave for Metro?
- Voice interfaces?
- Progressive Web Apps (faster pages + offline reading + push notifications)?
- HTTP2/HTTPS (for faster pages)?
- Harnessing the crowd? Aggregation? (Here are Reddit’s stats)
- Analytics? AI?
- Something else?
There’s also a constant stream of new tech such as CrowdTangle, Bounce Exchange, Content Insights and Google Optimize.
5. People are complicated
We are biased. We have pet projects. We get caught up in company politics. We lose sight of what’s most important. Motivation can fluctuate.
For any particular product feature, we misjudge how important it is. We misjudge how much work it will take to deliver it. We forget to weigh the benefits against the costs. We forget that any day now something big is likely to pop up and derail our plans.
6. Resources are scarce
The lists of things to do is constantly getting longer. The list is infinite, and the resources available are scarce.
Audience, Competitors, Platforms, Technology, People and Scarce resources.
What’s the answer?
How can a digital media brand be successful amid all this complexity?
A good start is to realise that complexity requires a different mindset to complicated. For example, building your own house is complicated.
but a flock of starlings is complex…
(If you want to know more about complex vs complicated check out Cynefin).
We can turn this complexity to our advantage. Find out more in part 2 of this post.