Phil Khor
Phil Khor Founder at

For those who make products, do you prefer improving on existing ones or developing new ones?

In terms of both value to your customers, and costs to your company, do you prefer improving on existing products or developing new ones?

Top voted answer
Steve Main

Steve Main at

I am very fortunate to be in a position to do both and love these opportunities. A tweak here and there, a quick fix, customise to help a client solve a problem, bolt on an addition function and of course build a new one. Its a balancing act, to ensure short term achievements align with long term strategies and sometimes acknowledging that the limitations require a new train of thought.

Tonight I have worked on both, a new small application (in this case building a new application has been quicker and more cost effective) and a customisation of a larger application (small customisation to enhance the user experience and grow with the business). Tonight I am not sure I can choose what I preferred, both equally have been very rewarding.


Phil Khor

Phil Khor, Founder at

That's great Steve, what a rewarding position you're in. Looks like a great business you've got there, I like what you guys offer.

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

With a background in Product / Industrial Designer I prefer both types of approaches. I will say that coming up with something completely new is much more time consuming and energy intensive. Making improvements to existing things is more natural because as you use things you start to see their shortcomings and think of ways to either improve them or work around their limitations.

Steven Freeman

Steven Freeman at

My experience is that it is much easier and lower risk to refine, improve, resell and re-package existing products into your own offering than create something completely bespoke. Developing front scratch often requires significantly more time and investment before you even have something ready to sell.

Phil Khor

Phil Khor, Founder at

Great insight guys, but surely there must be a point where it's obvious that starting from scratch would be easier, especially if the existing product is say completely broken and virtually unusable. The question is, what if it's not that obvious - what would you take into consideration in making such a decision? I can think of cost, and residual value to the customers, but are there other considerations that I should think about too?

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Brad Lyons

Brad Lyons, Consultant at

I would have to say both. I spend a lot of time when it comes to research and development. One project that I have been a part of over the years is called

Ongoing development is required in this industry and the main reason most companies are walking away from competitors is because the competitors don't spend time on research and development.

The result of R&D means we are developing new products and improving our existing products all the time. This results in more and more clients wanting to use our products.

In the data industry R&D is very important. While improving products is critical it is equally important to consistently develop new products. The industry demands it and as long as we keep improving and developing new products out competitors are not able to keep up. As soon as we stop! someone else will see the gap and take over the industry.

Some of the databases and CRM's I have developed are direct products of R&D. They wouldn't exist otherwise.

Basically, every industry I am in I spend a lot of time on R&D. When you play with large datasets, the more time you spend on R&D the more advancements you contribute to the industry and the more you contribute the more people notice you.

On the other hand, if you believe a product is broken or you believe there could be future issues then you should start on developing a new product. That doesn't mean you stop production or R&D. When it comes to software, applying updates and patches can only last so long. It is much better to take a step back and start coding from scratch.

I was involved in a project were the client wanted to develop an entirely new CRM. The old CRM was great however was always being patched and didn't have the ability to grow and adapt with the business.

In this case the solution was to start from scratch, while one team was dedicated to maintaining the old system another team was involved in developing the new system. Once the new system was ready it was put through beta testing and once that was completed it was rolled out in stages. A slow release in some cases is the best option.

So, improve the old or develop new? Both. If you believe there is a potential issue with one of your current products, start from scratch while maintaining the current product.

Identify the issues, test alternative ways and run simulations to test under pressure. All part of R&D. That is what I love about business, R&D, always looking to improve and create new ways of doing things.