Continually Improve Your Product – Week 4

When we download an app, or a piece of software, we do so knowing that the app will receive periodic updates in the future which will refine and grow the functionality of the app. Nearly all of these updates are free to the consumer, but they no doubt cost the app developer to produce. But why would an application developer provide free updates to an app? Why not simply build an app, test it, and release it – then move onto a new project?

The answer is simple, and you already know it: because they have to.

If the application developer didn’t provide updates, the app would slowly lose relevance as trends changed and competitors provided substitutes. Additionally, users of the app would become frustrated if part of the app was difficult to use, or worse, unsecure. Finally, because all of the other developers provide updates for their apps, users of the app would feel neglected, left out, and eventually, even ripped off if they paid money for the app. Clearly, we can see that providing continued updates for an app is a good idea, and a practice that isn’t even disputed. What is the point of all of this, then?

Not All Entrepreneurs Act Like Application Developers

It’s true. Think about it, a practice of providing improvements to an app is essentially expected and mandatory, while for other products and services, such improvement is not. Oh, improvements to other products can be nice, but many entrepreneurs do not see it as a crucial part of success. The belief that their product is “fine as it is” can further be encouraged by the success of their existing product. Perhaps their product or service is doing just fine and people are happy with it. As the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, right?

Wrong. If it ain’t broke, you can still make it better. As a matter of fact, having this kind of stagnant attitude about innovation can result in unrealized losses for a company. Of course the product or service might be doing well as it is – but how much better could it be doing if improvements were made? How much money is being lost because you could have sold more of a better product or service? The answer is that no one knows. You can’t tell how much product you could be selling, and it is that very reason why many entrepreneurs never attempt to improve upon their existing ideas. Yet just because something cannot be quantified does not mean that it ceases to be a valid concern. Improvements for products and services, just like updates for software applications, can make a profound difference on the success of an idea.

Improve Even the Successful Products

One product that comes to mind when thinking of successful products that have not received updates in a very long time are the calculators of Texas Instruments. The company essentially has a monopoly on the graphing calculator industry for schools. Because of this, it might seem that there is little or no use in innovating the product since nearly every students uses it anyway. But what other needs or opportunities might be out there for an improved (modernized) version of the calculator? Perhaps the calculators could be used more often outside of school and in settings like small business if they were marketed to that audience. I have personally seen many businesses using $3 calculators for their operations, when a simplified version of a Texas Instruments calculator could have sped up their process exponentially.

The point of it all, in the end, is that we should never stop providing improvements to our products and services just because we have achieved success with our existing products and services. Just imagine if we all used the original version of Windows because Microsoft saw it as a success and decided to stop improving it. But finally, remember that improvements to your product or service  may very well not need to be huge or revolutionary. Even small tweaks can go a long way in improving both the value to the customer and their overall experience.


Source:

Shussler, Steven (2010). It’s a Jungle in There. Newyork, NY: Sterling Publishing

What did you think? Leave some feedback! :)

6 thoughts on “Continually Improve Your Product – Week 4

  1. Austin,

    I agree with you things can always be improved upon and made better, or made for different markets or different purposes. There is always more that you can do to improve your business. The companies that live that are constantly added value to their company. And the companies that don’t may disappoint their customers and possibly lose some over it, when customers think why don’t they do this or add this to make it better and easier for me as the consumer. Great post!

    Thanks,
    Mackensie

    1. Hi Mackensie, thank you for the comment and for reading! I completely agree with what you said. We really have to responsive to changes like that and not simply assume that our product will always be the best. Markets change, and products need to as well.

  2. Wow this is an excellent comparison on entrepreneurship and app developers. Honestly I have always been curious about the world of app development and how they seem to work tirelessly on updates and improvements whenever the app is free. I guess through the power of ad placements and a hugely competitive market, once an app is launched it really has no choice but to keep getting better and better, or risk brutal termination.

  3. Austin!
    I love reading all your blogs! Great comparison between app developers and entrepreneurs. You broke it down in a way that we can understand the importance of updating our products and services! I think every business can profit from updating/improving their product and service. We all benefit from improvements. We do this personally by going to the beauty salon, taking a mini vacation, exercising, losing weight, taking a class, etc. So, why not put that kind of improvements into our business too? Your business is a representation of you! Maybe your product/service doesn’t need improving — but maybe the way you market your business does or staying in contact with customers or following up or returns or networking or…… You get the picture? We can always find something to improve on!

  4. Constant improvement is like reinventing ourselves. When you talked about the Texas Instruments calculator, I think about how the generations have changed and how simple tweeks to a product can make the difference in securing another market share. I know some believe “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but it should be can I make this better. And throw that pitch it to someone out of your circle. A fresh new perspective can be a spring board to a fresh new look or alternative use. There will always be something newer and better, why not let your product be that instead of someone else’s.
    thanks for sharing
    mm

  5. In my last job, I realized the importance of surveying and getting the general public, your customer, to buy into the idea of filling out the survey to make your business better (I now make it a habit of filling out all surveys with whom I do business with). GREAT ideas come from our customers, and they want us to stay in business if what we do is GREAT (food, service, products, etc.). If your business if failing in a particular area or your customer gives you an idea for where you can make some extra money, listen and fix the problem before you go out of business or someone takes your idea and does it better!!

Leave a Reply

Loading Facebook Comments ...