The phrase “putting lipstick on a pig” is a colloquial way to describe trying to make superficial improvements to something fundamentally flawed. In the context of a software product development, it may be the right time to stop “applying lipstick” and instead addressing the underlying issue with your digital product.

Continuing to apply quick fixes to your product may be a good strategy but one may need to revisit that approach.

Instead revisit product roadmap and realign the stakeholders every 3-6 months to a year, in order to create a better outcome for your digital product in the long-run.

Here is when you know you are “applying lipstick” and your digital product is still a pig:

  • The effort is not adding value: If the product feature improvements or enhancements are not solving the core customer problems or improving user adoption or improving customer satisfaction, it might be time to reevaluate the product development approach.


  • Cost exceeds benefit: When the cost, both in terms of time and resources, of making these superficial feature enhancements exceeds the actual benefit they provide, it’s often more prudent to stop what you are doing and consider a more fundamental product rebuild.


  • Negative impact on reputation: If the ongoing issues with the software are harming your reputation or customer trust, continuing to make minor tweaks without addressing deeper product-market fit (PMF) or digital product roadmap or product development approach can exacerbate the situation.


  • Losing market share: If competitors are offering better solutions that address the needs and pain points of the customer that your product is merely glossing over, it’s time to rethink your approach. Continuing to fall behind in addressing core functionalities or usability can lead to a loss of market share.


  • User churn and retention issues: When you start noticing that users are leaving your platform or are less engaged, despite frequent updates, this is a clear indication that the superficial changes aren’t addressing their needs. A deeper examination of user experience, customer journeys, minimum viable analytics (MVA) and functionality is required to reverse these trends.


  • User feedback indicates a need for change: Listening to user feedback is crucial. If feedback consistently points to deep dissatisfaction or requests for major changes that superficial updates can’t address, it’s important to consider a more substantial product overhaul.


  • Scalability challenges: If the product is unable to scale effectively due to its foundational architecture, continuing to add features or updates on top of this unstable base can lead to performance issues and higher operational costs. A strategic decision to rebuild or significantly refactor might be necessary.

There are additional signs that one needs to recognize and not ignore. Delays in product decision making may be affecting your team and creating additional underlining problems. It is about time you consider fundamental improvements in your product approach and make significant interventions in a software product initiatives beyond cosmetic updates.

Here is what “applying lipstick” is doing to your digital product and your team:

  • Innovation blockage: Sometimes, continuous small updates can prevent a product team from thinking innovatively. When updates are always about fixing what’s broken rather than thinking about what could be revolutionary, it’s time to pause and rethink the innovation strategy.


  • Technological debt increases: If quick fixes increase the complexity of the code or add to the technological debt, it can become harder to maintain and improve the product in the future. In some cases, sticking to the legacy stack is costly and the availability of the talent is limited, it is time to upgrade the stack.


  • Technological advancements: Sometimes, sticking to old methods or quick fixes can prevent a product from taking advantage of new technologies, stacks or methodologies that could fundamentally improve it. When technological advancements offer a clear benefit, it might be time to perform a more significant overhaul rather than continuing with minor updates.


  • Security vulnerabilities: If the software has inherent security issues that cannot be resolved with simple patches or updates, continuing to apply quick fixes can leave the product and its users vulnerable. In such cases, prioritizing a comprehensive overhaul to enhance security is crucial.


  • Internal feedback and morale: If your development team is frustrated by constantly having to make superficial changes instead of addressing more significant issues, it can lead to lowered morale and productivity. Taking their feedback seriously and allowing them to work on meaningful improvements can boost team morale and product quality. Delaying this process will make your A-players leave and cause talent loss.

Recognizing these signs early and making decision to invest in product upgrades rather than superficial fixes can ultimately lead to a more robust and successful product that better meets the needs of its users and stays competitive in the market.

Here is what we think you should be doing:

  • Strategic alignment:

Sometimes, continuous superficial updates can drift away from the original strategic goals of the product. Realigning the product development efforts to match the strategic business goals can necessitate stopping the minor updates and rethinking the product’s core design and functionality through data insights. We suggest you should do such alignments every 6 months.

  • Feedback from stakeholders:

Beyond user feedback and customer and data insights, stakeholders such as investors, board members, or business partners might provide insights that suggest the need for more profound changes. Their perspectives on market trends and business objectives can highlight when a pivot or major update is necessary.

  • Overcoming Technological obsolescence:

If the underlying technology of your product is becoming obsolete, continuing to invest in it might be a poor decision. Transitioning to newer technology stack might require significant changes and investments, but it can offer long-term benefits like improved performance, better user experience, easier maintenance and support.

At ISHIR, we offer “Innovation Acceleration” as a service and perform workshops led by our multi-faceted team of product strategist, UX designers, solution architect, along with product stakeholders from the client side every 3-6 months to a year for our clients to help them get out of this hamster wheel. Our innovation workshop brings priceless insights, understanding of budget and timeline considerations, and revisit product roadmap to gain confidence. This also ensures your product team is no longer working in the business but on the business from time to time, and is considering MVA (minimum viable analytics) insights, product validations, feature experiments and undertaking significant improvements to address deeper, systemic issues affecting the product development lifecycle.

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