What's the best approach to tech product discovery?

What’s the best approach to tech product discovery?

Thanks to Katie for getting in touch and asking ‘What’s the best approach to tech product discovery?’.

What product discovery isn’t

Firstly, let’s frame this question up by what product discovery isn’t. Too many companies are still driving their requirements by the market. That’s to say that they look at what other people are doing using competitor and environmental analysis, form some requirements, then design a blueprint for it, then code it up. Common problems here are all around copying. Essentially, your competitors may be getting it wrong and you’re just chasing them down a blind alley. You’re also not differentiating; you’re comparing your success to your perception of their success and you’re not focussing on your customers. Experience tells us they will leave you as a result.

What product discovery is

In a nutshell, good tech product is about giving your customers what they want, just like good businesses have been doing since the dawn of time. To find out what customers want don’t over analyse, experiment. Be a learn it all not a know it all and watch your customers like a child watches TV. You’ll then need to go through an experimentation lifecycle such as: idea, qualification, experiment, iterate.

Basic steps for product discovery

Idea: Anyone can have an idea and this is a good thing. Collect all ideas however silly they may seem. Collect them from users especially.

Qualification: Is this an idea that is relevant to your company vision, goals, outcomes? If it is, then prioritise it relative to the others and if the idea isn’t aligned to what you are doing, discard it. Be decisive. Get on with it. Good ideas accidentally binned have a good habit of coming up again anyway.

Experiment: Think about how a child learns. They don’t put a detailed spec doc together, assemble a team and seek funding. It’s trial and error. They learn as they go along. And they do it fast. Take the same approach. Start small, test it out. If it fails, drop it and if it looks like it’s got legs, then…

Iterate: Keep getting feedback, keep adding features one by one. Also, don’t let ego get in the way. The product isn’t about you. It’s about your customers. If it’s not working, drop it and try something else.

Remember, that technology moves so fast and the tech capability is so far removed from most customers daily lives, that they often don’t even know what’s possible. So, show them.

A practical approach to product discovery

  • Make sure you have method of capturing all ideas, from within the business (via customer service?), out side of the business (basic market research, current trends, reading, etc.) and also from your customers (using a tool like customer voice, for example)
  • What is the problem you are trying to solve? Make sure you can frame this problem to a clear business or product vision, with well understood outcomes aligned to it. Prioritise the ideas relatively to others in a good initiative or product backlog.
  • Focus on the high priorities first. Have courage! Dump stuff that you know will never happen. Keep focussed. This backlog needs to live and breathe. Don’t let the rot set in.
  • Build an experimental version. Test it. Is it moving the needle? If so which way? If you’re going backwards find out why. If it’s not working, experiment on another idea. If it is working, iterate on it. Also, set some benchmarks before you begin and measure, measure, measure.

Some great tools to help with product discovery

Doing a value proposition canvas is a great method to help you quickly assess potential product value. Check out the Strategyzer website for more.

Check out this great talk on Mind the Product about Design Sprints.

There are hundreds of great customer feedback tools out there. Here’s a run-down of a few from mopinion.

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