The Perfect Product Doesn’t Exist. Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing.

Two Chicago tech companies explain why product managers need to focus on deadlines and iteration, not idealization.
Written by Erik Fassnacht
May 11, 2021Updated: May 12, 2021

“The perfect product does not exist,” said Maksym Ostapenko, director of product at ReviewTrackers. “It should not be the goal — what’s important is gathering feedback, learning and iterating.”

Built In Chicago sat down with Ostapenko to talk about his philosophy behind product launches, and he didn’t pull any punches.

“Once you internalize the idea that the perfect product does not exist, it liberates you to make the right decisions. It’s better to launch something imperfect sooner so that you can learn and iterate sooner as well.”

Ostapenko’s philosophy is not without precedent. In a major video game launch, for instance, an initial release might be playable to millions of people. However, certain imperfections will soon creep up — extended loading times, frame rate drops or simple glitches being common occurrences, to say nothing of the customer base’s desire for more features and content.

The answer: iteration. Ostapenko believes that releasing a workable product that meets the immediate needs of customers, and then following up with a series of patches and add-ons based on feedback is the best way to launch a successful product.

Mrinal Kumar, product manager at CareAdvisors, was equally emphatic.

“We begin with a minimum viable product and continually add new features via small patches and big releases.” To learn more about the philosophy behind product launches and iteration, we had an extended conversation with Ostapenko and Kumar, below.

 

ReviewTrackers Product Launch Built In
ReviewTrackers

 

Maksym Ostapenko
Director of Product

Maksym Ostapenko is director of product at ReviewTrackers, a customer feedback platform that helps companies measure and transform the customer experience. After internalizing the idea that the perfect product does not exist, Ostapenko explained that he is free to release the best available product at the most opportune time — and then improve upon it going forward. 

 

What’s one key step you take early on in the product development process to set your team up for a smooth and successful launch?

In collaboration with design and engineering, we define a set of features that would make the first version of the product successful and we set a reasonable deadline for the launch of these features. This combination provides us with constraint and clarity to focus on what is most important to get to a smooth product launch.

 

How do you balance the desire to build the “perfect” product with the need to hit deadlines and get a product to market as quickly as possible? 

I like to keep agreed upon deadlines immovable and when the day comes for you to realize that deadlines are going to be missed (and it will come, no matter how carefully you plan) — you start reducing functionality that was supposed to ship in the first version. I start by asking questions: is this feature really essential or a nice-to-have? If it’s not essential, cut it. Can we release this little feature two weeks later after a deadline? If so, postpone it. Will this feature help us learn anything valuable on day one? If not, put it into version 2.0.

 

No matter how well you think you know your product, the real world will surprise you and your priorities will shift dramatically.

 

Whats a crucial lesson youve learned about product launches over the years? 

Nothing is as valuable for the product launch as a good beta period. This is the first time your product hits reality — real users, real data, real performance loads and unexpected use cases. No matter how well you think you know your product, the real world will surprise you and your priorities will shift dramatically. The beta period lets you learn and iterate, and it validates assumptions that the team had been making. And, most importantly, it produces happy customers that will provide case studies, quotes and success stories that will fuel a broader market product launch down the road.

 

Mrinal Kumar
Product Manager

At CareAdvisors, a minority-owned platform that helps remove inequities in social care, Product Manager Mrinal Kumar believes that adjusting the scope of a product launch and getting the minimum viable product into the hands of customers who need it is the most important factor. Getting there, of course, requires research and teamwork.

 

Whats one key step you take early on in the product development process to set your team up for a smooth and successful launch?

The product team at CareAdvisors spends a considerable amount of time early on in the product development process to adjust the scope of a product launch. We work closely with our internal stakeholders to define the scope of the launch and identify known and unknown elements from the product requirements.

Once the scope is defined, we work on prioritization and capacity planning to determine whether or not we have enough resources to deliver the scope of the work. Additionally, we refine the requirements with the development team to make sure they understand it well from both technical and functional perspectives. This framework gives us the ability to deliver what we promise within the timeframe of the product launch.

 

How do you balance the desire to build the “perfect” product with the need to hit deadlines and get a product to market as quickly as possible? 

Our primary focus is always users and addressing their most pressing needs. We start with defining the minimum releasable product and roll it out as quickly as possible. Each release is a milestone in our product roadmap and with each release we get closer to the perfect product. 

CareAdvisors invests a lot of time conducting research to identify gaps in the market and needs of users. This research helps us define what the final product should look like. 

We have an extensive featured roadmap for electronic health record interoperability between hospitals and community health centers. The most pressing need is to transfer clinical data between hospitals and community health centers. We initially started with clinical data transfer and have since been adding new features to improve the product. 

 

Our primary focus is always users and addressing their most pressing needs.


 

How does your team prepare for the unknown and ensure unexpected issues don’t derail the success of a product launch? 

Our product development process is very stringent to make sure it is technically stable and a total market fit. The team spends a considerable amount of time on research to identify gaps and give interactive demos to customers to obtain validation. We include every stakeholder in the development process to make sure there are no gaps among them, which helps us mitigate a significant amount of risk when it comes to expectations. 

CareAdvisors follows a strict agile methodology with each sprint ending with a demo for all stakeholders to obtain their feedback while iterating the development process. However, this does not mean we will not see unknowns. Our team occasionally faces some degree of unknowns and being agile helps us overcome those challenges. We adapt to the situation quickly and communicate with each stakeholder to make sure they understand the changes we are making and the reasons behind them. 

 

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