30 Steps Projects Become Products

Random Observation/Comment #686: Evolving from projects to products with users and expectations is a huge graduating step.

Why this List?

I’ve worked on too many research projects (within a company or in my spare time) that are interesting, but don’t have a clear plan operationally to take it into a sellable product. Whenever I start projects that are meant to be profitable, I think a lot about the deliverables and steps needed to validate the market.

I’ve left out of here any of the regular entrepreneurial overhead tasks (incorporation, growing a team, financial planning, etc) and kept it as a journey for internal project graduations into funded initiatives.

  1. Write a running log / project scoping doc – You can use a number of tools for this, but you’re essentially providing high level goals, problem/solution, logistics linking to important docs, team, project timeline, and a set of meeting logs. A google doc works just fine.
  2. In blogpost format, write a value proposition for your product – Describe the problem you’re solving to your audience of readers and hypothesize on a solution. Get feedback on this solution.
  3. Write a charter document – Formally define your project’s vision, benefits, ecosystem, architecture, and high level roadmap. Some sections can include: an Abstract, Benefits, What is it? Why Now? Key Concepts, Architecture Overview, Demo, Roadmap, and Founding team.
  4. Fill out your pipeline of customers, partners, and users – Customers buy your product, partners help sell your product, and users use your product. At a high level, it’s important to create a list of top 10 of each and shape your ideal bases.
  5. Create a use case rating framework – This is a way to prioritize your work in factors like desirability, viability, and feasibility.
  6. Lean Business Model Canvas – Standard MBA good practice to explore and build out business ideas. While this doesn’t need to be customer-facing, it shows the founders have thought through the end-to-end value chain.
  7. Stakeholder and Client interviews – Good practice for validating a product market demand is through interviews. It informs the product shape and prioritizes offerings. Internal stakeholder interviews are especially helpful for clients to align on business case value and impact. Highly recommend using userbitapp.com to collect this information and quantitatively analyze product feature emphasis.
  8. User journeys, flows, and epics. High level requirements – Documentation of requirements and assumptions with clear user stories and functional flows for the ecosystem. This is not a step to be skipped if you’re going to help express the vision to the tech team.
  9. Executive Deck – Used to introduce the ideas to grow the team, get sign-off, add partners, explore with prospective clients, and fundraise. Usually the slide-version of the whitepaper. Slides can include: Problem – Market Need, Solution – Impact, Current/Target State, Functional Flows / Wireframes, Architecture, Roadmap, Founding Team.
  10. Create a social media presence and blog – At least claim the right handles and direction for your idea.
  11. Create a logo – Surprisingly a fun step. I think the naming is much more stressful.
  12. Create your base website – Using the information above, your starting point describes the project and company value proposition.
  13. Create a newsletter – Keep groups updated on your progress. Start growing your audience.
  14. Additional Resourcing and Hiring – Clear accountability of known members of the team and allocations. Most people do this much earlier and get their founding team together to distribute the workload.
  15. Detailed Requirements – Formalizing requirements that may inform testing and confirm vision of the product for your dev team (if it’s not a one-person show).
  16. Product roadmap – High level view of monthly improvement and feature expansion. Your product roadmap can be transparently shared or kept internal.
  17. Features List Prioritization – Backlog of features with clear MVP: Must-have, should-have, and nice-to-have. These would be prioritized based on customer feedback.
  18. Market Demand and Demand Validation – Gather client feedback and direct product team feature prioritization.
  19. Competitor Analysis – Review of different players in the market and their existing progress. Comparison on how your product’s approach is unique by region or customer base.
  20. Tech decisions + Platform Comparison – Tech stack and choice of buy vs build on specific modules. Reuse of existing assets and understanding of clear IP advantages. Sometimes your tech decisions is based on your existing team expertise.
  21. DevOps best practices – There’s a range of options here, but hopefully you’ve learned from previous projects how a base build is useful for production-level deployments.
  22. Testing cadence – Merging to master and proper reviews needed to test updates. Write test cases. Organize with flags. Utilize the right testing tools.
  23. Technical Documentation – Addressing non-functional requirements, high level ecosystem, functional architecture, reference architecture, deployment architecture, wireframes and mockups, tech stack (core + libraries). These are often shared with cloud providers if you’re running a service with high uptime SLAs.
  24. Consider pricing for your product and research competitors for placing yourself as an attractive alternative to an existing market.
  25. Build a support package for maintaining your product long term. This usually involves scaling the team and training the right people.
  26. Sign your first major client or set of base users – This is exciting!
  27. Consider joining hackathons and submitting your project into these venues – it’s a great way to get exposure to new clients.
  28. Create a marketing campaign to publish your work and get it noticed.
  29. Create a marketing video that summarizes your product value proposition.
  30. Enable others to build with your product – The key to product expansion is connectivity.

~See Lemons Approach Product