Kaizen Principles for Product Development: How to Apply Continuous Improvement through user feedback

Matthew Keir
Matthew Keir

One of the key principles of Kaizen is continuous improvement. This means that you are always looking for ways to improve your products, processes, and services. In order to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace, it is essential to constantly be tweaking and improving your offerings. The Kaizen approach to continuous improvement can help you do just that.

In this blog post, we discuss how to apply Kaizen principles to product development through the use of user feedback and implementation in user-centric development. By utilizing user feedback and constantly improving your software development process, you can ensure that your products are always at the forefront with user needs.

So, let’s get started!

 

What is Kaizen?

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “improvement” or “change for the better.” It is a business philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement in all aspects of an organization. Kaizen principles can be applied to any area of a business, including product development.

The main goal of Kaizen is to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. This is accomplished through continuous improvement of processes, products, and services. There are many different tools and techniques that can be used to accomplish this, but user feedback is one of the most important – especially when considering product and service improvement. By constantly soliciting user feedback and using it to improve your products, you can ensure that your products are always at the cutting edge. Eliminated wasted effort associated with unwanted features, ineffective bug tracking, and extended development cycles.

Applying Kaizen to Product Development

There are many different ways that Kaizen principles can be applied to product development. In this section, we will discuss two of the most important: user feedback and its inclusion in software/web development.


Part 1: User feedback
User feedback is a crucial part of the product development process. By constantly gathering user feedback, you can ensure that your products are always meeting customer needs. In software development, user feedback can be gathered through in-app (or website) feedback collection, beta testing, and in some cases in-depth user interviews.

In-app feedback is ideal for ingesting user feedback as it’s collected at the time of interaction, where engagement roadblocks or feature ideas are clear in the users mind. This temporal advantage (over user surveys, email etc.) is that it produces clearer, more concise and more actionable feedback for Product Managers and Developers to analyze. This feedback can be used to improve the user experience, fix bugs, and add new features.

Beta testing is another way to get user feedback earlier in the initial build phase of the product development process, when organizations are moving from concept to build. By releasing a beta version of your software to a group of users, you can gather feedback about bugs, usability issues, and desired features. This feedback can then be used to improve the final product before it is released to the general public. Beta is common practice practice, and nothing new for developers, but remains a key step in the go-live process. The beta testing ideal however, still requires a mechanism to collect feedback, releasing a piece of software and hoping for inbound feedback isn’t a recipe for success. Consider combining it with the in-application approach mentioned above. 

 

When time isn’t of the essence, and a deep-dive on holistic product or services is required, user interviews are a way to get in-depth feedback from your users across a broad array of your area in question. By conducting one-on-one or group interviews with your users, you can gather valuable insights about their experience with your product from head-to-toe. This feedback can then be used to improve the user experience and add new features. User interviews are particularly useful for those looking to improve the service element of their product (or service, I guess) where the delivery and consumption happen simultaneously and the service itself leaves nothing tangible behind to later be inspected, though of course services may product outcomes and artifacts, the artifact itself is the byproduct of the service. 

The Importance of user feedback and how user feedback is just one part of the equation and that in order to continuously improve products, you also need to incorporate it into your software development process to constantly improve.

 

Part 2: Incorporating user feedback

The software development process is always evolving. New technologies and approaches are constantly being developed that can help improve the quality of your products. In order to stay ahead of the curve, it is important to continually update and improve your feedback loop (which often lools more like a knot for Product Managers)

One way to do this is by implementing new automation tools and processes that have traditionally hampered user feedback from entering the development workflows and processes already optimized. By streamlining and automating tasks, you can free up your developers to focus on more important tasks – improving the quality of your products and shortening development timeframes.

To improve the ingestion of user feedback and continue to harness its value in improving your products, software team should seek a modern user feedback platform that can collect user feedback in an unobtrusive manner, when users are most engaged with the product and bugs, feature ideas or suggestions will be at their clarity peak providing the foundation to better feedback.

The user feedback process itself has gone through its own Kaizen on a macro level, moving from text-based form fills, to screen shots and into video and full session replay for total clarity. Those collecting user feedback should strongly consider adopting the more modern features of video and session recordings rather relying on the more legacy text based processes that tend to lead towards inconclusive feedback and ineffective feedback workflows that result in unactionable suggestions.

Once quality feedback has been garnered it needs to be made easily accessible for screening and prioritization before being sent to the developer task boards in operation already. Siloed feedback is dead feedback and the opposite of the Kaizen method of improvement. This is where adopting modern feedback platforms and the automation element highlighted earlier comes into effect. Push submissions to a central location for screening and prioritization, once accepted, automate the information flow into the workflows of those responsible for feature builds or bug fixes – whatever tool they’re working with. If your team works from Jira, put it in Jira, if it prefers Github, Gitlab, Asana or Basecamp… put it there. Avoid siloed information wherever possible to improve your development process with user feedback. 

With initial user feedback quality improved, prioritization, screening and user feedback information more effectively operationalized, consider a final step of submission feedback to complete the cycle. Providing an online location users can see their feedback submission and be inspired and ‘upvote’ other users’ ideas creates a feeling of value for your users. Whilst not strictly part of a development process, your customer success teams will thank you for helping drive down churn and build customer advocacy.

Applying Kaizen to development and adopting user feedback in an effort to improve your software development process are key steps in improving both the product itself and the process in which it is created. By utilizing user feedback to improve your software development process, you can ensure development cycles are shortened through focus and that your products are always at the cutting edge of user needs. 

If you’re looking to improve your development process and start collecting user feedback, try Userback free for 14 days and kick off your own Kaizen journey.