What Bloomberg Government is doing -- perpetually moving and shaking the field of government-oriented procurement and analysis -- is quite the feat. But how they are doing it might just be even more impressive. A lot has changed on the technology front since Bloomberg Government, or BGOV, launched in 2011. And for a company that provides an outstanding service, staying relevant in the digital age comes with its own challenges.
Yes, their product works -- convenient, comprehensive tracking and analysis of legislation and government contracting data. But how do they stay so far ahead of the competition? Meredith Gould, Product Manager at Bloomberg Government, helped shed some light on the feat by breaking down their five-step process -- and what was the foundation for their quest for digital modernization.
1. Stop doing, start listening
It might seem counter-intuitive at first. Slowing down to speed up? To-do lists for entrepreneurs typically start with innovate, innovate, innovate (along with being agile) but there comes a point at which you need to ask, who are you innovating for, and what are you innovating towards?
Gould says that keeping BGOV modern means frequently revisiting the existing strategy to re-align the team's vision, and then "interviewing as many customers as we can and organizing their feedback [...] into a master data document that gives insight on our strengths and weaknesses."
2. Read between the lines
Customers don't always know how to explain what they want or don't want. The challenge is asking enough questions to be able to identify their problems before you can go to work on solving them.
According to Gould, that involves asking "what are the common steps that people are taking, and where are they struggling?" Do they fully understand the product? Can they navigate the website or app effectively? You've got to understand where your customers are trying to go in order to help them get there.
3. Pick a target
You've listened to your customers and figured out what they want; based on inferences you make from that data, you should have an idea of where you can improve. Use this information to develop a strategy and take calculated risks.
Despite Bloomberg's massive success and its valuation in the billions, Gould says that BGOV often relies on the most basic kinds of questions, such as "who are we going to target, and how can we best reach them?"
4. Follow-up relentlessly
Assess. Revise. Re-assess. Do your best to track how customers react to the changes you make, and re-adjust on the fly where necessary. If possible, implement your riskier strategies incrementally. "If you're right, build it up. If wrong, remove it," advises Gould.
5. Turn down the voices in your head
Your customers are who you should be listening to, according to Gould. "People fall in love with their own solutions [...] but they aren't attached to anything. Product managers get it wrong by prioritizing their biases -- be unbiased."
Sure, you might have a great idea in the wings, but is does it relate directly to a core feature? If not, perhaps it's something that can wait. Too much innovation can be just as much of a problem as too little, and enriching your core feature set can be just as important as launching something new.
It's time to disrupt your roadmap
These five steps comprise what Gould refers to as a 'roadmap for the future'. BGOV uses it annually as a way of identifying new markets as well as retaining existing clients. In Gould's opinion, although, every company may find itself navigating slightly different terrain, this one map can serve as a universal compass, helping entrepreneurs stay on course and continue to iterate for success.