Great products are built by great teams. There is a lot to be learned by contributing in a large yet nimble enterprise company that builds world-class services and devices. Shipping flagship products such as Office 2007, Bing and Windows 8 is an enriching experience and here are some lessons that startups can learn from an enterprise such as Microsoft.
Create an environment that fosters planning
Seeing ideas fruition into products is the most fulfilling part of the development stage. I’ve seen ideas captured via vision boards, storyboards, Share Point sites with bucket lists of brainstorming, post-it notes on walls to detailed vision documents.
The planning process is not only about putting together a project plan with milestones, it also means you need to make time to brainstorm and plan for the vision of your product.
Use your office, your online shared spaces and create an environment to capture and grow ideas organically.
Validate and test your assumptions often
Vision and ideas can’t take you further along without validation. Usability studies in labs, field visits to potential customers, endless surveys, customer forums, discussion groups and a solid focus on ‘Customer Connection’ are at the heart of every successful product at Microsoft. Social Crunch and Pathful provide various analytics tools to measure data. Reaching blogger networks, walking out of your office to meet-ups and hosting customer focus groups are some other ways to test those ideas.
Invest in product development and product enablement
A solid focus on product enablement is a strong success driver for product groups in Microsoft. By product enablement, I mean various factors that are instrumental in ‘enabling’ a successful product e.g. hosting infrastructure. This means taking the time early on and investing in the right infrastructure to enable your product will cause less head-ache in the long run.
Empower & encourage each team member
You have the best team with a lofty vision and great set of product features with a solid supporting infrastructure. Yet, something feels amiss!
An emphasis on vertical and horizontal ownership in my Office team created a great environment that fostered collaboration. As you work through the long list of things you need to get done for your startup, look at each team member with a keen eye and leverage more than one of their skills. This will make for a well-rounded fully engaged team.