Product Development by Google: Recipe for Innovation

Anastasiia Vlasova
Mar 14, 2019 4 min read
Product label
Product label Mar 14, 2019 4 min read

What comes to your mind when you hear the names of the tech giants like Apple, IBM, Amazon or Google? They are generally associated with innovation and quality.
No matter the product, those are the companies establishing trends. How do they manage to survive and grow? The well-established processes, a defined focus and a few more tricks that became the best practices in the development world.

Let’s have a look at Google product development as the milestone not only for bigger tech companies but also for smaller companies that strive for excellence in their product delivery. Though many providers apply this approach, it’s usually with some alterations fitted to the particular business environment. 

According to Marissa Mayer, a former Google Product Manager, the formula of the innovative product is a successful combination of smart people, creative environment and outlet for ideas. Smart people as a notion really presupposes the engagement of smart, well-educated, experienced professionals but also talented, holding unconventional knowledge (like specific domain, not necessarily related to the product) and what is specifically pointed out, the creativity and enthusiasm is mandatory for this environment. Creative Environment, a Googleplex as a representation, is the surrounding which offers a positive and inspiring atmosphere by office design, tools, that is, everything enabling forward-thinking and creative ideas.

google product development

The process followed by Google for the Product Development includes:

1. Accept ideas from everywhere
This idea specifically emphasizes that innovation is not about the job title or exclusive lab job but it is more about hearing out everyone, as normally regular engineers or testers can bring more insights than top-levels within the organization. It’s not about reinventing the wheel.

For instance, Google Health product manager was the one to suggest that the search information results for suicide should automatically recommend the information on where to call for help, that is suicide prevention hotlines, etc.

2. Prioritization of top 100 ideas
This includes the compilation of all the new ideas currently funded projects and ongoing maintenance efforts; where time and resources are spent or may be spent in future into a list. To complete prioritization of the ideas, the new concepts are assigned with ranks and attributes such as 4=risky but exciting and 5=better. The projects with the highest ranks are allocated staff and funding. 

3. Having small, agile, engineering teams
To improve the efficiency of product development, the projects are allocated to three-person units. These allocations allow fluid development of the product where the engineers are allowed to work on individual projects which can be over fifty in number. The technical excellence of the projects is guaranteed by the technical lead of every unit. The tech leads work in conjunction with project managers to facilitate documentation which is primarily underpinned by feedback. The documentation facilitated by the engineering teams expounds on the potential revenue of the project and the market size.

4. Promoting self-organization and visibility
Product development at Google also focuses on improving the visibility and self-organization of their product development teams and the respective products. For instance, the company has “snippets” which are designed to help teams to leverage previous knowledge and expertise from the projects. The snippets also have links to each team member’s homepage because they are organized in relation to the project. Google has “Sparrow pages” which are used to remind teams and members about the status of the project, its date of launch. They also have calendars to help in the visibility of the project.

5. Thinking user-centric design
At Google, there is great emphasis on understanding the user of the final product; hence, they adopt the product design and development life-cycle to user-centric processes. There are different variants of user-centered frameworks that can be employed including the agile and waterfall methodologies which are applied in product development to enhance under experience. At Google, the user-centric design is based on five elements: expedient solutions, iteration, experimentation, focus on quality and feedback, and user studies.

One of the primary principles of Google’s is making user-oriented products with revenues being secondary concerns. Hence, the company facilitates user studies through a range of techniques such as in-house user study laboratory, search engine interaction, after release testing, and conducting user interviews. Typically, user studies are undertaken once per week. The focus on users also means that the company usually launches products earlier in order to gather user-feedback and enhance the product based on the feedback given by users.

User studies are augmented by improving the quality of the product whereby the user’s feedback is embedded in the product. The company can also outsource to enhance the quality of its products. Quality is improved through rigorous experimentation. Normally, the company runs the products, collects data and conducts statistical analysis on results of use. Such strategies are augmented by trying out products to the public and measuring users responses. Experimentation is important in Identifying consumer needs. It also helps in highlighting potential problems and obstacles to the increased user experience. 

Google is renowned for its iteration process. This process involves the incremental development of the product by leveraging customer feedback to improve the features and specifications of a product. This technique is important when the company has yielded two competing products and is struggling to decide which product to be rolled in the market. Google practices test marketing and feedback gathering to define the product that should be pulled from the market.

Summing up

From Google’s example, it is clear that user-centric design is important in product development and innovation. The process shows that for successful product development a company has to invest in research and development of human resource by providing managerial guidance. This strategy is used to enhance product development lifecycle.  Ultimately, the product or service that provides more value to users must be adopted and distributed in the market.

Relevant Software knows how to apply Google’s approach to product development. Need your perfect solution? Contact us and see how we can make your great idea works.

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