Design-to-Value in Software Product Development


Last Updated on April 23, 2021

We discuss the design-to-value approach in terms of software product development and explain how this strategy can help you define the necessary features for your product.

Design-to-value in software product development: Planning out the functionality pack of a successful product

If you’ve decided to create a product, you already have some concept in mind. Most likely, this concept isn’t elaborate yet and revolves around the general practical benefits your product may create. However, in order to bring the product to life, you’ll have to think of these benefits from a completely different point of view.

This article explains how to combine your conceptual thinking with the design-to-value approach that will help you get a more elaborate vision of your future software product and proceed with further steps of product development.


What’s behind the design-to-value approach

Design-to-value is an approach that streamlines decision making in product development. Its main idea is to make important choices regarding your product from the point of view of value as opposed to cost.

‘Value’ depends on the benefits you want to derive from your software product. For example, you aim at gaining new customers’ attention. To achieve that, you can offer a precise set of features that customers find extremely important. In this case, you achieve your value (customer’s attention) by delivering value (necessary features) to users as well.

Alternatively, your value can be in your market positioning or brand image. You may want to put all your effort into presenting a certain innovative feature to get a head start over your competitors or even create a certain niche for your software by, for instance, developing unique software for a particular hardware device. And if your goal is to at least catch up with your competitors, you’ll be concentrating on following their products as tangible examples in almost every functional aspect.

In short, it’s you who defines what kind of value you want to get from your product. Further on in this article, we’ll be talking about the most popular type of value – the one that aims at giving value to the customers.


Design-to-value vs. design-to-cost

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Design-to-value and design-to-cost approaches are often contraposed. Decisions made with the design-to-cost approach in mind focus on keeping the production costs as low as possible by any means, which can conflict with achieving value.

Let’s say, you want to attract customers’ attention by releasing a high-quality, feature-packed product. By trying to minimize development costs, you will have to either considerably narrow down the feature choice or lower the production quality of them all. In either case, you’re unlikely to achieve your value goal.

Still, experienced software product development vendors strive to balance these approaches to get the best of two worlds. As a result, you can get a product with a set of the most necessary features, which are both cost-effective for development and meaningful for customers.


Applying the design-to-value approach to feature choice

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Market research

If you aim to win your future users by offering them valuable software, you should understand what exactly they value. For that, an in-depth market research is necessary.

The design-to-value approach treats market research as one of the key points in product planning. Thanks to the various kinds of insights, you can figure out market expectations and determine the requirements you need to meet in order to create a successful product. McKinsey and Company names three kinds of insights for design-to-value research:


Competitive insights

It is always good to start software product planning by researching the functionality set of the products that are similar to the one you want to create. Before you understand what features can bring value to your customers, you need to know what features are already on offer. At least some information about the ways these features are implemented can also be useful in order to understand the next types of insights.


Consumer insights

Consumer insights should be the core of your research, since user experience is critical for software products. First, have a look at the user base of your potential competitors: you need to know as much about these people as possible (gender, age, occupation, etc.) in order to predict their needs and expectations. Scrutinize their feedback on the existing similar solutions while keeping track of suggestions and complaints. User reviews are a great source of consumer preferences and demands that will help you understand what features should and shouldn’t be present in your product.  


Supplier insights

What users say they value isn’t always what actually drives them to purchase a software product. People may say that customization isn’t as important to them as performance but prefer to buy products that offer customization options regardless. Getting an insight from suppliers who work with various software products and consumers can offer you a better feel of the market requirements.


Defining features

After completing research, you have the necessary data to define a feature set of your software product. Accumulate consumer insights to create detailed user scenarios and highlight the features that are used in most of them. Chances are, these features are already offered by your competitors, so check with the competitive and supplier insights to learn how they are implemented. Then refer to consumer insights again to see how you can improve these features and deliver value.

For your first release, it’s safer to go with as few features as possible, so include only those that your research has shown to have better chances to succeed in gaining customer attention. However, don’t forget to plan out the features you’re going to add to your product with further updates in advance. Some features can be easier and cheaper to add to your software product later if you prepare your software architecture for them from the very start.


On a final note

By applying the design-to-value approach to software product development, you prepare your product for the real market and prepare the market for your product, too. If you focus on delivering the features that are in high user demand, you reserve a place for your software among your competitors and invest in customers’ attention to your product.

Tags: design to value approach Design-to-Value Software Product Development

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