The best product teams incorporate frequent evaluation into their processes and actively pursue upgrades. Their processes need to be agile to constantly evaluate the viability of their product. This cycle of evaluating and implementing product changes over a period is not simply a process, it is a mindset.
Additionally, product teams need to ensure that their product is evolving with changing customer attitudes and technological advancements.
To get an understanding of the continuous improvement process mindset, we can start by answering the following questions.
- What is continuous improvement?
- What are the benefits of continuous improvement?
- How do we practice continuous improvement?
- What does continuous improvement look like for NetNation partners?
So, what is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement, also known as Kaizen (“change for better”), is a practice that emerged in the Japanese manufacturing industry where processes were made to lower costs and improve quality. Continuous improvement means that upgrades are made over time, encompassing both incremental improvement and substantial improvement all at once1.
Also, Kaizen is a linear progression of improvement in an existing process1 where every improvement becomes a guideline for the next. This mindset is built into work processes to ensure improvements don’t exacerbate workloads2.
What are the benefits of continuous improvement?
There are many benefits to continuous improvement that go beyond the product department, and leaning to improve processes in several areas of an organization2. Here are some of the ways an organization can benefit from a continuous improvement mindset:
- Improved product quality
- Increased efficiency and productivity
- Decreased cost
- Reduced waste
- Improved employee satisfaction and teamwork
- Increased customer satisfaction
How do we practice continuous improvement?
The continuous improvement practice consists of a four-steps: Plan, Do, Check, and Act1.
For the first step, define the problem or opportunity for improvement. In this phase, you can start planning an approach to the problem with questions such as:
- What is the scope of the problem?
- What is the goal?
- Who should be working on this?
- When do you need to solve the problem?
In the the second step you can start making your way through your plan of action from the previous step. You can execute the full plan or try small-scale solutions to experiment. Keep track of your process as it evolves and gather feedback.
In this step you much check if your approach to the problem was the right one. Analyze your results from the Do phase to determine how successful your approach was. Document what worked and what didn’t. If your approach wasn’t successful, you can circle back to the Plan phase and adjust it based on your learnings. If your approach was successful, continue to the next phase.
Finally, in this phase you can fully execute your new solution. Note that this isn’t the final phase, as continuous improvement is cyclical. Your solution may work for now. However, you will need to figure out when it needs to be re-evaluated. Every new solution sets a new baseline of success you can measure future changes.
In conclusion, these four steps are the basis of the continuous improvement mindset that the greatest product teams have. Practicing continuous improvement allows you to foresee potential setbacks, iterate enhancements, and stay competitive in your industry.
What does continuous improvement look like for NetNation partners?
For NetNation, continuous improvement has been embedded in our product teams’ culture by way of everyday practice. We learn and iterate at every step of the production cycle while working closely with our partners to deliver customers a relevant brand experience.
“At NetNation, we offer an umbrella of products. This means we must continuously plan, iterate, improve, and implement features that best serve our partner’s customers. One of the strengths we have is the flexibility to adjust and integrate with our partners’ existing systems,” Martin Anastasov, Director, Engineering and Product Management.
For example, when we launch products for our channel partners, we motivate their customers to explore by spotlighting features. This means highlighting and promoting features that will be most beneficial for our partner’s customers. This helps NetNation channel partners to increase stickiness, improve average revenue per user (ARPU) and sell more of their core services.
In addition, this involves integrating key systems such as purchase flows, order forms, and billing. We create a seamless brand experience for small business customers, allowing them to explore all the products available for purchase, and activate new and existing services within the channel partner’s portal.
Now that we have explored the concept, the steps involved, and the benefits of the continuous improvement process cycle, it is time for you to experiment with it and observe how it benefits your team. If you are already part of a team with a continuous improvement mindset, please share your experience in the comments below. Also, our team would be happy to connect to discuss how to widen or improve your existing network of small business web services!