The Real Reason Leaders Fail To Launch A Winning Tech Product (Written By A Software Firm)

In today’s fast-paced world of innovation, there is little margin for error.

Every leader is feeling enormous pressure from boards and investors to slash costs and innovate at the same time.

The risk of creating something new is greater than ever.

As a technology partner in the trenches with high-growth startups and Fortune 500s alike, we see your fears and frustrations up close.

As business owners and entrepreneurs, we feel them too.

Being in software development, you witness how big wins happen and also, why they don’t.

With this in mind, it’s time we have an honest conversation about the reason smart, talented tech leaders strike out when launching a new product and how to correct it. Because if a rising tide lifts all ships, then your success is critical in the Southeast, where innovators are routinely overlooked and underestimated.

Typically, it’s not a lack of ideas or resources that doom tech products to failure — it’s weak design planning.

Here are 3 ways rushing into implementation prematurely can take down your new technology.

Way #1 | Leaving too much discretion to engineers

Engineers are not mind readers.

Yet, this is precisely what we demand of them every time eager execs skip the early-stage design and discovery process.

Developers are excellent at many things, but making business decisions for your project is not necessarily one of them.

What It Looks Like:

One of our first clients attempted to cut costs by outsourcing design to a suspect firm.

Naturally, we advised against it. When the wireframes came in, our team built them to spec, and you can probably guess what happened next. Without the forcing function of a detailed design process to flesh out the client’s vision, screens were missed, functionality was overlooked, and undocumented assumptions went… well, undocumented.

As a result, the project budget and timeline ballooned by 3x, due in large part to negative work.

Negative work occurs anytime a developer has to go back and rework something that could have been defined better.

Examples of negative work include:

  • Sub-optimal architecture
  • Building unnecessary features or functionality
  • Doing work that’s going to need to be scrapped and redone
  • Developing a product without understanding the full scope of requirements

How To Avoid This Trap:

To avoid negative work and exponentially increase your odds of success, work with a firm that delivers production-ready designs for engineers before development starts.

You’ll want to ensure those plans include:

  1. User stories & UX flows
  2. A scalable design system
  3. High-fidelity UI designs & interactions

Remember: Without “blueprints,” programmers are left with no choice but to guess the needs of your users and stakeholders, which is a huge risk to take.

Way #2 | You’re blind to unknowns

Great leadership requires keeping an eye on the big picture at all times.

But every once in a while, a leader is so driven to get to the finish line – and to increase their bottom line – that they choose to bypass the design process, and in turn, are unable to see the obvious obstacles ahead.

What happens next is a hideous compounding effect, where mistakes start to snowball.

What It Looks Like:

After 10 months of effort and investing +$300k into building a new platform, you are days away from the launch.

When supportive customers test the app, their feedback is not good. One of your product’s features is missing, because it wasn’t documented anywhere.

The good news: The development team is willing to go into overdrive to fix it.

The bad news: Your go-live date is now postponed, the price tag has skyrocketed, and you’re going to need additional funding from your angry board and investors.

Welcome to your living nightmare.

Unfortunately, this scenario is very real and very common.

It is why several of our current clients jumped ship from their former dev shops to hire us. Nothing teaches you to appreciate the importance of design quite like being burned.

Fortunately, in less than 12 weeks, we took them through our Define & Design process, which they leveraged to validate the product.

We iterated until customers couldn’t wait to get their hands on the platform.

This is what the road to launching revenue-generating products looks like.

If a software firm tells you otherwise, run.

How To Overcome This Trap:

By utilizing a proven framework, a good firm will be able to catch and correct common product pitfalls. If one isn’t in place, the onus is on you to ask:

  • What UX traps or blockers do you foresee hindering user adoption?
  • About feasibility issues: Can what you are designing really be built?
  • How do you estimate & allocate engineering resources during development?
  • Tell me about your QA process: Is it in-house or outsourced? Done by a dedicated team or the developers?

Pro Tip: Be sure to save or screenshot these questions for your next big tech project.

Way #3 | You build the wrong thing

When the Lean Startup was published in 2011, a huge shift occurred in the way building technology was approached.

The book ushered in a new era of testing and iterating with an MVP before going all in on a pricey build out. Unfortunately, more than a decade later, we still encounter many leaders who believe they’re exempt from an agile and interactive process.

Predictably, the results are never good.

What It Looks Like:

A few years ago, an organization with a successful platform approached us for help.

They’d recently launched a novel, second application from stealth mode. As the sales team began to approach prospects, a detrimental flaw appeared – using this technology would expose customers to legal liabilities.

The marketplace began to talk, and their reputation took a huge hit.

When the organization came to us, we uncovered fundamental issues, which could have been overcome early-on with a clickable prototype.

We warned them of the exorbitant costs it would take to correct these problems, but with hundred of thousands already invested, they decided to double down.

It took two agencies and three more years to develop the product to lackluster results.


How To Overcome This Trap:

Unless you’re backed by Silicon Valley billionaires with deep pockets, the days of building in secrecy are dead.

No matter how badly you think the industry needs what you’ve got, it can sit tight for the 12 weeks it takes to go from idea to clickable prototype.

In return for your patience, you’ll be rewarded with intel to power up your product, such as:

  • Industry insight & a competitive advantage
  • Deeper understanding of your users needs
  • Data-driven validation to reassure stakeholders

The Bottom Line

It is easier and cheaper to iterate in design than in code.

In fact, it is the basis for the golden rule of software development: Measure twice, cut once.

Investing the effort upfront to validate your idea will save you time, money, and possibly your reputation, even if it’s by realizing you should not be building a specific product.

In the long run, you’ll earn the respect and trust of your superiors, who will be more likely to back you on the next project.

It’s a win-win.

If you need help figuring out whether you’ve got a home run on your hands, we can help with our Big Bite Define & Design Package.

The next time you get the courage to swing for the fences, we want you to knock it out of the park, for the home team.

See you next time,

Carlos & Richard