by Chris Dowling

“Our competitor just added this feature.” “This prospect won’t sign up until this feature is in place.” “Can we add more pictures or video here?” “My wife thinks it would be better if it worked like this.” “I don’t like this color.”

How do you cut through the noise and keep your product development and delivery resources focused on what’s important? As a start-up with a digital product, the investment in and optimization of your development resources will be critical to your success. To get the most out of your finite resources and development efforts, it is important to dedicate the right business resource to the product development process.

While you are likely to have a dedicated digital producer or technical project manager, it is important to have a strong leader on the business team who can speak for the business as a whole. A strong product person will drive and prioritize initiatives that are in line with strategic business objectives, and will serve as an evangelist for the customer experience. Their role will be to process the various inputs and feedback, filter out the noise and keep development efforts focused on what’s important to the business and customers.

Without this dedicated person in place to provide cover, the floodgate of technology requests, requirements and feedback will be open — from executives and advisors, clients and sales reps, marketing and customer support and even friends and family of executives — without the proper priority attached to them. This often leads to an overwhelmed and unfocused development team, slowing down their ability to deliver.

A strong tech lead/digital producer/technical project manager will always ask ‘Why?’ when receiving feature requests or requirements, and push back when they don’t seem in line with business priorities or customer needs. However, without a product owner, the process usually breaks down over time. The product lead and tech lead must have a collaborative relationship with strong communication, always staying in synch on objectives and priorities, to ensure the most effective use of development resources.

In a start-up, failure to prioritize around key business objectives can be fatal. The resulting costly delays and poor product experience can doom a new company. While employees in start-ups will invariably wear many hats, it is critical for the business to put a strong product leader in place to work with the technology team on executing the product roadmap. Your customers, and your business, may depend on it.