Letting Simplicity Drive Product Development

Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This philosophy can and should be taken to the software world. If you are going to develop technology to be used by a business, strive to make it as simple as possible, but not simpler. If you’ve made it simpler you’ve lost something important.

So how do you apply this approach to software development? First, you need to recognize that simple does not equal less powerful. This stems back to the Pareto Principle, that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of causes. There are so many types of software used by businesses ranging from Email services, Marketing Technology, CMS, and CRMs. Take the CRM for example, a simple CRM should be simple to use but still have the capabilities of other CRMs.

As you develop a SaaS platform, especially when considering interaction, a specific question should be asked any time a decision on the product roadmap is made. You need to stop and ask, “Will this make a customer stop and think?” This can allow you to determine whether or not a feature is easy to understand and use. If something is going to be too difficult for a user to figure out, you need to start asking if it is the right choice. People don’t want an overly complicated technology, it makes them less likely to adopt it into their workflow. We want to give them those moments that feel effortless but they achieved something. Here are three key aspects of product development that you need to examine as you seek to build a simple, yet powerful platform.

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1. Integrations

In a recent survey, nearly nine out of 10 SaaS and Cloud providers state integrations are important to winning new customers. Customers want to see integrations. Before you work on adding a feature or update to your product, consider if someone else is already doing what you are trying to accomplish. It is likely there is another product out there your customers already use that you can integrate with. For example, a CRM does not need to become an email provider itself, it would be much better off integrating with existing email providers like Gmail or Outlook. Let experts do their work. You can leverage their expertise through integrations. Allowing your customers to connect with their favorite tools from within your platform makes things simpler without losing capabilities.

2. Features

Similarly to integrations, you need to consider whether a feature is necessary to add to your product. Oftentimes product developers will seek to add as many product features as they can, but this is not always helpful. The more features within your platform, the more complicated things can become and the less likely a user is to utilize the platform. Find the features that customers actually need and stick with those. Each feature should benefit the user’s business. This will differ depending on the type of platform. For CRM, features like contact management, a view of the Sales pipeline and reports are going to be crucial. A content management system is not necessarily going to need a feature to view the Sales pipeline.

3. Flexibility

Giving customers the flexibility to customize your platform to meet their needs is key to keeping things simple. Let them have a say in the way your technology fits into their business because different businesses have different needs from their technology. What makes sense for one might not make sense for the other, so you can keep things simple by allowing flexibility and customization. Customization is a road that must be tread carefully, too many options and you end up complex again. You can’t make your product fit everyone’s workflow. Tough choices need to be made.

As you develop your technology platform, keep the customer top of mind, be in constant conversation with them. Ask the right questions to ensure you are developing a product that can best meet the needs of your customers. Don’t only think user experience (UX) but think customer experience (CX). Remember, a simple solution can be extremely powerful.

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