You may take any number of learnings from others experiences but at the end of the day unless you really go through this cycle of implementing things and learnings from failures and work to put wrong things to right nothing really happens. One such year of experience was last year for us where we did make loads of mistakes but learnt valuable lessons. Now these lessons are on drum roll across the internet in many blogs but are worth sharing for our own validity in future.
The first mistake was deviating away from what we want to do and get carried away with what others are doing. There are many portals implementing some great features, providing immense value add to user community. The very humanly nature of not being able to resist the desire to implement all such innovative concepts in your own business plan and trying to fudge your original concept with these new ones by force is something that needs a control. Result if you dont, you end up losing valuable time and most importantly a direction in which the business has to move towards.
2) Think And Deliver Iteratively
A very simple and well known fact that agile approach is the way to go to set up almost anything be it a business or orgnaize your own day to day tasks. Thinking small and then building on it to deliver iterative value to users was something we did practice quite a bit, however the shift of focus hammered the rythm of iterative delivery. Thanks to the christmas break that we did a thorough retrospection of the year and found and realized this. We did realize we need to be patient and settle down before creating elaborate roadmaps and peddaling on.
3) Pre-Requisites Preceeds Roadmaps
Its essential to have a roadmap on what you want to do, however its more essential that one identifies what are all the pain areas that await in the roadmap and put an effort to remove or prepare for those pain areas in advance. Should you be the owner, the nature that you can do everything and you do better has to be controlled and instead build a team that does the work for you. Be prepared to spend, to have a team and you instead focus on driving the roadmap and removing these impediments. That works!!!!
4) Analytics Are Not Just For Configuration
Many of us configure analytics for example google analytics, but remain happy looking at the stats. Its amazing that with just very few tweaks after a year of seeing the analytics and doing nothing, the traffic to our site has doubled within just a month. Now i am not going through all the tweaks here but a thought around adderessing the issues due to which users are not buying the very idea can be the thin line between success and failure.
5) Ask 5 Questions Each Period On Behalf Of Customer
Put yourself in the customer shoes and see how you are performing and if you are meeting the expectations. The answers atleast we received was a resounding "NO". There you go, there are lessons learnt and additions to what we want to do this year. I believe this ties with the fact that one has to come out of the day to day struggle to setup the business or a service and focus explicitly to understand the customer discomforts.
Now these may sound very basic lessons but i understand atleast half the businesses take too much time to realize them. Reading this if you are thinking, now I know the basic lessons then let me tell you "You have to go through the process and learn for yourself". Reading this you just know them but dont realize in essence until you humanly go through it :).