Amazon’s Product Development Approach

How Amazon creates new products?

Speaking about startups, previously we have written about some product or startup creation and development tips. As you may know, today almost all startups and product managers apply a so-called Lean approach. Lean approach says that in case you have invented some project idea and thinking of making a business from it, you should create an MVP — minimum viable product — to test the idea. MVP is a version of a product with a limited functionality. It is important that MVP development has to be extremely fast, without spending a lot of time and money. According to lean startup the goal of a founder is to test the idea to understand whether the hypothesis lying in the basis of the product is vital and worth realizing. 

Anyway, today we are going to talk about the product development approach that is applied in the Amazon. No doubts that Amazon ranks with other global companies like Google, Apple, Alibaba etc, offering global-scale products and, what’s more, is considered to be the top company providing the best customer experience

Amazon’s approach to product development is called “working backwards”. It is easy to figure out that it means something like starting from the end. Managers at Amazon, following this approach, start with writing a press-release when they think of a new product. They write press-release before any development, prototyping, designing. The basic idea of this approach is to work backwards from the customer, instead of starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it. Let’s see.  

Well, instead of creating an MVP and Lean Canvas iteration(s) according to Lean startup, Amazons’ managers write press-release, like the service or product they keep in mind is already live. You know, press-release is a document that represents a message for press and media to notify about any event, fact or in our case, new product launched. Surely, press-release, be it Amazon-created or any other, has to be: 

  • simple;
  • short;
  • clear to understand;
  • describe a single product or service;
  • gain interest of the readers and,
  • attract them to use the product, showing its benefits.

Writing press-release, Amazons’ managers pay attention to problem description that the product is expected to solve or show the enjoyment it is expected to provide a user with. In other words, Amazon’s customer-oriented corporate culture lies in this working backwards approach. By the way, few are aware that following this customer-centered corporate policy, many meetings at Amazon are held leaving one seat empty and keeping in mind that this place is intended for the customer, imagining he/she is sitting there. With such a simple trick, managers think about the customer more than about the product itself, which lets Amazon to create good products many of us use today. 

That is, product managers write these press releases keeping in mind customer(s), their problems, requests, wishes. Because their core value is putting the customer first, the press release must focus on customer need.

Benefits of Amazon’s product development approach

  1. Iterating on a press release is a lot less expensive than iterating on the product itself.
  2. Iterating on a press release is quicker.
  3. It makes possible to elaborate the idea significantly before any development.
  4. Multiple iterations provides the team with a clear understanding of the product. 
  5. Final press release itself is a good base for a specification guide and task for development team. 
  6. This approach itself is simple and easy to work with. 

How many iterations Amazon product managers perform on press-release? — 15

Actually we don’t know why exactly 15 iterations, and can’t say for sure do they strictly stop iterating after 15h version. Or 15 is just a recommended number of iterations, and the team can stop writing new version if they are satisfied with version 5 or any. And we know for sure that they do not develop 15 versions of a single press release at once — they write them 1 by 1, analyzing and reviewing each version. 

Further, when the press release is approved and the team begins development activities, the press release serves as a guide for the team to reflect on and compare with what is being built.

By the way, working backwards approach is applied not only when product managers think of a brand-new products, but also when they elaborate adding new features to existing services

So, The working backwards approach used at Amazon while creating new products or services lets Amazon be a global company and a leader of customer experience. In case you deal with product development, we recommend you to try this approach in your team. By the way, the described approach is brought to perfection and is applied professionally at Amazon. Most likely nobody, except those who worked at Amazon and applied this approach, know all the aspects of this approach and how to use it in properly. In our opinion, the key to success when you work on a project or startup is to use several approaches be it lean startup, design thinking or working backwards, combining their aspects, depending on the given project. 

Code Inspiration’s team sincerely hopes that this article was useful for you and wishes you to be successful in your projects. In case you need assistance in development strategy for your product from software development industry professionals, please let us know. 

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