5 reasons why products and solutions do not meet expectations

In product management, we want to avoid investing efforts in solutions that do not meet either our or our customers’ expectations. But why do solutions frequently fail to deliver as hoped?

1. The problem space has not been understood well enough

Product management constantly receives new ideas and requirements. However, these ideas and requirements rarely come with the necessary context. What problem do they solve and why is the proposed solution better than the alternatives already available to customers? Implicit assumptions are also rarely validated beforehand. If the problem space is not reviewed and verified by product management later on, it is likely that the solutions developed will not meet expectations or at least fall far short of their potential.

The even bigger issue in this context is the reversal of the logic that is actually essential. Instead of dealing with the most important customer problems and strategic objectives, most of the time is invested in analyzing submitted or own ideas and requirements. As a product manager, this makes you popular with stakeholders, but the most important homework is left undone.

2. The solution space is delegated to the development team

Another extreme is to dedicate oneself only to the problem space and to leave the implementation — the solution space — to the development team. This approach restricts the potential that exists at the thresholds between the product, the business, and the technologies used. Potentially important ideas or even innovations for new products and markets can be overseen. Netflix, for example, has revolutionized the market by transforming its actual solution (video rental) into a new solution (streaming) through new technologies and business models. Competitors who overlooked this did not exist soon after. Such solutions are not created by delegation, but by creative and intensive cooperation of diverse roles in the company. Solution ideas that emerge jointly between experts, developers and product managers are better than solutions that emerge in isolation.

3. The solution space remains too small

One challenge that remains unconscious to the individuals involved is that the solution space is kept unnecessarily small:

  • Due to limited know-how about business models, market mechanisms, competitors, regulations, technical possibilities, potential partners, available resources & tools, etc. A variant of this is simply the lack of competencies that a team actually needs.
  • By the tendency to think rather within the own responsibility or by wrong assumptions concerning the personal or company related area of action.
  • By a lack of time or creativity techniques to develop new concepts and solutions.

4. There is no validation of whether considered solutions work

Surprisingly often, the reason for poor success of solutions is due to two surmountable weaknesses:

  • Uncertain assumptions are not verified in advance. Thus, solutions are developed that do not really fit customer needs or market mechanisms and therefore fail.
  • During the solution and implementation phase, prototypes or other tests are not carried out at an early stage to check whether the conceived solution meets expectations and brings about the desired change.

Both aspects are not only about saving effort and identifying mistakes early on. There is also an opportunity to learn important lessons. Overlooked aspects of the problem space or new information for implementing better solutions can lead us to find the missing pieces to success.

5. The market dynamics are not transparent

In certain markets, in B2B or in marketplaces, special constellations may occur that can be challenging for product management. Typical causes can be:

  • Decision makers/buyers (=primary customers) are not the users of products and decide based on business criteria relevant to them, e.g., conditions versus product value proposition. If the product value proposition is generally fulfilled, the response of the users and their customers (customers of customers) plays a secondary role up to certain thresholds. This is the reason why many B2B products have a lousy UX but a large feature set.
  • Products with long contractual terms or high implementation efforts are affected by these switching hurdles. As a result, the impact of developments can only be measured to a very limited extent and at a very late stage, which makes feedback loops difficult or even impossible.
  • The success of products that operate in an oligopoly or monopoly market depends only to a small extent on product performance. More important is the company’s access to the limited goods, services or markets.
  • Buyers and sellers who use the market power of a marketplace to achieve their own objectives do so to a certain extent regardless of the fact they dislike fees, regulations or general business practices. Customer and user satisfaction can therefore be contradictory to actions as long as there are no better alternatives for the respective customer groups.

In such environments, it is extremely relevant to understand the market drivers. This includes measuring any feedback and objectives and doing so only if they can provide meaningful insight into future success for such markets.

This article is part of the series Maximizing Product Management Potential

The article was first published by Traian Kaiser on Medium.

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Traian Kaiser

Traian Kaiser

Experienced Product Leader supporting aspiring and new-baked product leaders to succeed in action.