Why Product Experimentation is a Necessary Investment

Carlos Elena-Lenz

Managing Director

It is no secret that building world-class engineering teams is difficult. Forming a small band of exceptional engineers around an innovative idea is difficult enough, but once an idea begins to gain the attention of the market your team naturally swells in number and is required to meet new-found demand. 

When great ideas become big businesses, a significant shift occurs that causes a change of priorities—from product discovery to product delivery. The desire to see the initial idea scale, reach as many people as possible, and have an impact on the lives of users sees all the tenacity and energy that brought the idea to life rechanneled into building and evolving the product as quickly as possible.

This drive, spawned by the need to commercialize an idea to realize full business potential, could turn into a huge downside when the future need arises to develop new products. The mindset that makes for masterful product delivery and execution, runs at odds with the mentality and methodology for successful new product innovation.

To be able to build at the speed and scale of an exploding startup, managers and CEOs begin to hire engineers who pride themselves on execution at scale. Rather than hiring pirates, who think, act, and build like mavericks, they hire naval infantry, who think, act, and build according to roadmaps and best practices for robust, scalable software products.

In this new model, the emphasis placed on the rapid learning and iteration needed to hone in on product market fit naturally gives way to optimizing for bringing stable, reliable products to market fast. In other words, learning velocity is replaced with engineering velocity. Unintentionally, one methodology replaces another. Instead of the business having two tracks that deliver value through product discovery and product delivery, a single-track model emerges. This one-track approach removes what we at Connected believe is the art of constant product innovation and delivery: dual-track discovery and delivery.

For market leaders, product experimentation capabilities are necessary for avoiding the trap of moving from disruptor to disrupted. Or better yet, simply being able to constantly outpace the competition through self-disruption. Are we simply talking about innovation? Yes, and no. New product experimentation is the art and science of hypothesis-driven design and development with a focus on identifying new features and products faster than the competition. 

Of course this doesn’t mean destabilizing your organization and beginning again. Instead, executive teams need to create teams within the larger organization, where risks are embraced and experimentation is a must. Rather than focusing solely on delivery, product experimentation and engineering teams need the support, investment, and culture where their discovery, ideation, and prototyping capabilities can survive and thrive.

Establishing a product experimentation capability means fostering aspects of a startup culture within an organization that has shed its startup roots, where product experiments have space and time to deliver value. Yet these new product ideas need a place to land. Hence establishing a dual-track model where product ideas that graduate to production can rapidly move from idea to revenue-generating product in market. 

At Connected, we have helped transform delivery-focused product and engineering teams into dual-track powered organizations. Our most successful partnerships have brought product discovery together with product delivery to ship new products and redefine our client’s position in the market. 

It is these experiences that we’re looking to share during our Product Thinking event series. By bringing together engineering leaders, we are looking to further deliver impact to the product community through meaningful conversations. Because great product building is always a conversation—a conversation between builder and user, colleague and colleague, and leader and leader. 

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