The title is a question we have been kicking around at Neo for the last few weeks. I often refer to us as a product agency, as opposed to digital agencies that do marketing websites and campaign work. But what is a product?
Here’s an initial stab.
A product is a repeatable capability that delivers value to its customer. A product might be consumed, personalized, or come with bespoke services, but it is not inherently bespoke at its core.
The product designer’s job is to create a replicable experience that will deliver the most value to the right set of customers.
The product lies at the center of a suite of capabilities that together form a total experience for customers (and often partners too). For customers, these capabilities include how you market to and acquire them, how you support and continually engage them, and how you charge them.
Characteristics of a product:
- there is a core, repeatable engine that powers the customer experience
- it can make money while people sleep
- ideally it delivers continued value, rather existing as a one-time thing (unless purposefully designed as a consumable)
These days, any product that aspires to be more than a boutique, artisan thing is also powered by software. There might be physical hardware or human services involved, but there is almost always software involved to make it scalable, streamlined, and ultimately smarter for the customer.
The interesting thing is that every product company out there is turning into a software product company. This is a profound thing, and requires some profound changes. It requires a new excellence in design, engineering, and business. It requires new processes and ways of thinking. A wave of startups have been taking advantage of the incumbents’ difficulty in making that transition, but it does feel like the giants are starting to wake up to this reality step by little, baby step.