I was fortunate to be associated with product engineering activities ever since I started my career and the first alphabet (should I call it a phrase?) that I learned was ‘test the product’. With all those gig with strategic management jargons after a B-school stint, it was a sense of insult when I was asked by my boss to test a new module in the CRM product. I thought I should rather be designing the product and not testing it. It was later after six months that I realized that testing is the best way to learn a new product, understand the user experience, the vertical lingos and the overall product orientations.
In the early days, with the traditional SDLC life cycle, we had a separate phase for testing and user acceptance and validation and there was forced collaboration to validate and test product. With increased adoption to agile methodology, there is an increased scope for client participation but the reality is on the North Pole. Most of the startup clients wait for the final product and avoid testing early. They are engaged with parallel marketing/sales/fund generation activities and are of the opinion that when something is outsourced, it got to be out of their mind and out of sight. This hurts the product development and scope management as the priorities are set by the developers and not based on the criticality of the features.
The worst thing happens towards the final phases when the clients do not have any clue on how the product works and every feature seems to be a bundle of surprises for them. They start spending more time on marketing/sales and end up having less idea on what their product can actually offer to their end consumers. A startup cannot layout their marketing strategy based on their vision or dream and it got to be consistent with what their product is offering as a solution. Here are my takes with my limited experience in working with the startup community:
1) Founders are the best sales resources and you cannot keep selling your dream. You got to sell your product and its solutions.
2) Selling your product needs a deep understanding of what it can do and what it cannot do. Testing the product alone can give that insight
3) Test early and test frequently – This will help in prioritizing and managing your MVP
4) Do frequent demos to a small target group even during the development phase. This will help to get some regular insights and will also fine-tune your demo capabilities.
And finally, who else can sum up better than Dilbert: