Some product development teams might fall into the trap of thinking that all customers need the same thing. However, an outstanding vendor should cultivate a mindset of sharing and exploring which ideas would work well for each particular product, and which wouldn’t.

Today, with the growth of agile methodologies and DevOps practices, companies that choose to outsource the development of their software increasingly prefer a product mindset. This allows vendors to individualize their approach to outsourced software product development, deliver results that would best meet market and client needs, and ensure more flexibility throughout the development process.

Let’s see how the product mindset differs from the project mindset, and learn how to find out if your potential product development vendor has it.

Project mindset vs. product mindset

The project-focused approach revolves around a predefined scope of work, strict time frameworks and compliance with the initial plan. In terms of the project, the vendor is mostly concerned with allocating resources more efficiently, spending less while doing more. In this mindset, project managers approach the project as a process that must be followed strictly, and their attention might be diverted from product specifics and actual user needs.

In contrast, the product mindset is all about critical thinking, which helps correctly define the product goal and map out steps to success. The approach begins with defining goals and visualizing the customer’s problem or need. Focusing on the customer’s requirements will help the vendor guide the design and development efforts of the team in a way that optimizes time, resources and project outcomes, which is a win for both sides.

In product development outsourcing, creating value for the customer and making this value available and easy to tap is paramount, while constant customer feedback can be used to help evaluate the results and estimate the degree to which the results align with the product delivery objectives.

As you can see in the diagram shown, development patterns of a vendor with a project mindset are predictable: the whole process is broken down into small chunks, depending on time, budget and resources.

A product manager, on the other hand, would take the agile approach, splitting the development process into sprints and focusing on delivering a minimum viable product (MVP) quickly, in order to compare the results with the actual market need and be able to implement changes.

5 components of a product mindset

Vendors with the product mindset are in the habit of constantly brainstorming new ideas in search of better ways to achieving their goals. Being creative, they tend to focus on the outcome rather than the process. This approach provides them with a better understanding of how to get things done in a lean way. Here are the core dos and don’ts of a vendor who thinks product.

Deliver value, not features

A product-centered approach doesn’t welcome adding a feature just for the sake of it. The vendor’s main task is to think of benefits to the customer from using the product. If a product helps handle real problems, customers could return for product updates. Therefore, vendors communicate with the target audience via an MVP and marketing channels, understanding practical customer needs, gathering feedback and amending the product to make it solve acute problems better.

Don’t try to get everything right

Vendors shouldn’t expect to get a flawless product on the first try. Developing an MVP to test the idea might help determine the target audience and let users test the product. Early adopters could pitch a new feature and provide a concept, and the vendor would need to gather feedback to decide if the idea is worthwhile.

User feedback

Product creators build initial promotion campaigns to engage more users and entice them to leave feedback or take other action, as planned. Valuable product features and chosen marketing communication methods will determine the number of early adopters and followers. A product-focused vendor will find out the audience’s expectations, identify the pain points of the product and work out methods of solving them.

Stay flexible

Sudden changes in the market and shifting audience preferences shouldn’t frustrate a product vendor. When a trend, product or competitor changes, a vendor should know how to change tack and adapt the product. An agile approach will help embrace changes smoothly and allow the vendor to come up with new features for the product. They might have to modify their company culture to become agile and adopt the product mindset.

Stay consistent

Reliable vendors shouldn’t stop delivering value to their clients. They evolve their products, monitor changes and test new ideas of exchanging value with clients and end users. There’s always room to make a change and improve the offer. When a vendor delivers a great product or service, the audience will appreciate it.

Check if your product outsourcing vendor has the product mindset

You may be wondering how exactly to find out if a potential vendor of outsourcing product development services has a product mindset. The best indication is the questions the vendor asks and the topics they raise. If you can evaluate these questions and their reasons for asking, you would get a good sense of whether the vendor’s priorities are product value and client success, or project plans and limitations. The following are dead giveaways for the product mindset:

  • Vendor enquires about the ways a product could solve real-world user needs.
  • They are interested in the market fit of the product.
  • They try to find out details of the product’s value to prospective users and its potential in the market.
  • Managers might suggest an approach that requires less effort and resources and reduces the number of hours billed.
  • A vendor does a lot of work during the pre-sales phase to understand real customer needs. Digging below the surface of the initial requirements may demonstrate the vendor’s commitment to making the product a success.
  • Vendor’s specialists can comprehend the current status of the product (for instance, problem validation, solution validation, market validation, scale-up) and suggest the best direction to move in. If the product requires validation, a good vendor would suggest developing a minimum viable product or proof of concept.
  • Managers pay a lot of attention to the technology stack and product architecture and can offer various product development strategies.
  • They demonstrate the ability to estimate risks at any stage of the product, identify medium- and long-term risks, and offer risk-mitigating solutions.

These are strong indicators of your would-be vendor’s attitude toward your product. A reputable product-focused vendor’s first priority should be the product, not maximizing billed time.

Taking stock

The willingness to smoothly and quickly add new custom features during development of the product and the ability to deliver value in short sprints distinguishes a vendor with a product mindset. This approach allows the vendor’s teams to measure success and drawbacks of the product and, especially at the MVP stage, optimize and improve, and then repeat this lifecycle. The vendor is able to adjust to deviations from the initial plan, which lets the development team tailor a more valuable product. By choosing to work with a product-minded vendor, you will begin the process of creating your product in the most flexible way possible.