Why product teams fail: The 4 most common mistakes made by product teams

An exploration of the most common pitfalls faced by product teams.

Feb 16, 2023



min read

design agency

There is a common assertion in the industry that 80–90% of products fail. Whilst this is often used as a way of heightening recognition for those that do manage to achieve success, this is in fact an “urban legend.” The actual failure rate of new products is around 39% in software & services and 42% in technology industries. The point is, this is already high enough but many of the failures that we see today happen because of the same common mistakes.

Spinning Fox was born from the frustration experienced when we witnessed in-house product teams failing to apply user-centric design and product development principles. We knew they could do better, and we wanted to help clients succeed. Below we will explore the mistakes that we’ve witnessed the most:

1. Solving one’s own needs, not the needs of your user

The most common mistake is to fully understand the user of your product. Many teams think they know their user but fail to socialise their product at various stages of the product development lifecycle. Teams quickly need to identify who needs the product, what problem is it solving and why they would use it over something else.

The users have to be at the heart of your product development, every decision and requirement has to be validated against them and their needs. Without that deep understanding, teams are simply using hope as a strategy.

2. Overbuilding the MVP

Getting to an MVP of your product requires ruthless decisions to be made. Many teams end up including too many “must have” features without really asking themselves if they will be pivotal to the success of the product at launch. This results in overbuilding the product and detracting from the true value that your product brings to the user and the problem that it solves for them.

Launching an MVP that’s small in terms of overall features yet is delivered on time and stays true to the core value proposition is far more important. It allows teams to test, validate, iterate, and learn. Future product development decisions will also be based on valuable user data and insight built from an even deeper understanding of the user.

3. Building for too broad of an audience

Similar to building in too many features to your MVP, many product teams aim to cater for too broad of an audience. You end up being the “jack of all trades, master of none”. The product will be trying to solve more problems for your users but to a lesser degree. Those same teams will also have a harder time figuring out who they should be going after as their customer.

4. Creating a SUX (Sh***y User Experience)

Your user experience should be king. In this day and age, user expectations are incredibly high. We live in a world where we are constantly interacting with digital products that are intertwined with our everyday lives. They do so by delivering a user experience that becomes habit-forming. So intuitive that we can use them without even really thinking about it. So why should your users expect any less from your product?

Product teams often fail to realise this. A “that’ll do” mentality can be the difference between a product failing and succeeding.

Collectively our vast range of experience in product development has meant that we’ve worked with a huge range of teams.

Continuous testing needs to be built into the product lifecycle from early-stage low-fidelity wireframes through to the launch of your MVP and then throughout your iterations. In many cases you will have one opportunity to impress a user otherwise they are likely to dismiss your product and not return.

We’ve worked with businesses where digital wasn’t even on their roadmap through to clients that thought they were well established on their digital journey. No matter what stage they are at we’ve been able to show them how far they have to go, and we’ve supported them and their teams in getting there.

There is no shame in product teams failing, the important thing is to spot the signs early and take remedial action to make sure you don’t become one of those 39%-42% of products that do fail. We hope these 4 common mistakes help towards that.

the author

James Marshall

Managing Director

James has over 15 years of agency experience partnering with global clients such as Dyson, Adidas, Nike and PepsiCo. He has also lead product teams in the delivery of solutions such as the HSBC Mobile Banking App and the Nike Running Club app.