Software Product Success Stories

Sehlhorst on the top of the spire in Potrero Chico

Most of us have seen those blog-tagging memes – “Tell us three things people don’t know about you” or “What did you have for breakfast?” We’re starting a useful one today – How I helped make a successful product! Read on to see our success story, and find out who else we’ve asked to tell us. What a great way to put some proof points behind the theories!

The Rules

You have to tell a real-world story about how something you did made your project or product successful (or more successful). This is not a time to say “blah blah blah really works, trust me” but to tell us about something that really happened. Change the names to protect the innocent. It just has to be a true story.

Your story could be about anything in the software development lifecycle – you could talk about goals and requirements, development processes, testing, UX, whatever makes for a good (and true) story.

Then tag someone else. Pick some of your favorite writers, and ask them to tell us a real world success story. If you want to tell more than one story, go right ahead. If you tell more stories, tag more people. It’s only fair.

Track back to whoever tagged you – or comment on their article, with a link to yours. If you can, let people know you’ve tagged them. If you really feel generous, include a link back to this article, so people can start here and read everything. Whatever you do, have fun!

Here’s our story…

Snapping the Elastic User

elastic users

I did some work last year for a start-up company that was developing a new product. They started out with the right approach – identify a market need, then figure out how to solve it. They jumped the gun a little bit, and went straight to building out the solution and defining the user interface without having a clear understanding of their users.

They ended up with an interface designed (mostly) for one class of user – very technical people, while they were targeting their solution and product for a different class of user – very non-technical people. This company had designed a solution for elastic users. Some aspects of their product were tailored for non-technical folks, and other aspects required technical acumen. They also had a mixture of user interface elements designed for novices and those better suited to experts. Many aspects of the product focused on competent users – and that’s good.

With the nature of their product, this had an impact beyond the usability of the product. Identifying the right users was essential to assuring the viability of their product. They couldn’t demo the technical interface to non-technical buyers. Their value proposition needed to be clarified – was this a product for technical people or non-technical people to use? How the company would position, price, and prioritize decisions about their product really depended on answering these questions.

The user experience presented opportunities to tighten things up, and better manage the design elements with users of varying levels of experience.

To help this company out, I helped them define personas. We gained an understanding of the intended (and possible) users of the product. As a start-up with a blue ocean product, they had a lot of strategic flexibility. They could design for technical or non-technical users. Different target users would approach solving the particular (customer) problem very differently. These approaches drove different economic models both for their customers, and for my client. Helping them get this clarification and pick a target audience helped them to determine pricing models, create a crisp message for the marketplace, and prioritize future development with clarity of direction.

Persona development is useful for far more than interface design. It helps in defining processes and use cases, which allowed our client to refine their business model, focus their message, and prioritize ongoing development work.

Tag! You’re It

network of people touching

It’s very hard to resist the urge to tag a couple dozen of our favorite writers – but we’re resisting, because we hope you’ll tag our favorites.

Mishkin Berteig of Berteig Consulting, who writes Agile Advice: Thoughts and experiences for practitioners of Agile Work, the middle way to excellence.

Steve Johnson of Pragmatic Marketing, who writes the Product Marketing Blog: Best practices for market-driven product management.

Bill Miller, who writes You Want it When?: There is a better way to manage software development.

Everyone Can Play

If you haven’t been tagged, feel free to spawn your own thread – just link back to someone who’s playing so folks can follow along.

17 thoughts on “Software Product Success Stories

  1. Wow – really getting a surge in traffic on this one. Here’s what the map was showing around 11pm.11pm simultaneous traffic

    ps: scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the map. The number shows 121 simultaneous readers. Other tracking software showed that almost everyone was reading this post.

  2. Hey Scott, I’ll bite. Here’s mine:

    http://blog.nerdguru.net/2007/10/process-empowerment-and-team-building.html

    Engineers generally hate process. My post has to do with some details in running the retrospective of the previous project to increase the likihood of the team following it in subsequent projects by giving them real power to change it. While going through that retrospective, there’s some wrinkles in there that help teambuild as well. Process improvement + team synergy = a better project delivery.

    Pete Johnson
    HP.com Chief Architect
    Personal blog: http://nerdguru.net

  3. Thanks Craig, and thanks Mike! Welcome to the meme, and we hope that several of your readers answer the call…

    Also – two of the three people who’ve responded (directly) to this article did it on their own – I only tagged three people, in hopes that I wouldn’t “use up” all the people who might get tagged. I started with a very long list, and ruthlessly pruned. So for all of you who weren’t tagged – jump on board.

    If you don’t have a blog, but still want to tell a story, send me an email with the story, and we’ll get it up here.

  4. I would like to submit this story. It will be illuminating as we are at the receiving end of a product, and as developers recognized how constrained we are by management, yet make the cut using ingenuity and hard work. Here’s the story.

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