An Introduction to Product Management: Discovery and Definition
Introducing a new product to the market should be an iterative process to validate assumptions about user behavior and the product itself. Often, a prototype isn’t enough to validate the product and achieve internal buy-in. An iterative process is highly beneficial to continuously meet the needs of your users and maintain engagement. But how do you know exactly what to build for your users? How will you solve their pain points and exceed their expectations far beyond what your competition offers? The process of product discovery and definition.
Your team must have a thorough understanding of what is feasible to build within the scope of your product. Product discovery is the process of determining what the problem is, how to solve it, and how to know that you solved it. The discovery team should include the client or key stakeholder, product owner, designer, developer, customer expert, and business expert. When you bring a team of experts together, you’re collaborating a variety of different skills and expertise with the goal of building the best product possible. With experts from each department, you’ll be able to better understand what is feasible and what is unrealistic when it comes to developing the product.
A product discovery will help the team avoid any miscommunications in the development phase and save you time and frustration later on. The overall goal of the product discovery is to understand the user needs, project goals, project scope, expected outcomes, and the resources and budget needed for development.
At Clearbridge, we heavily involve the client during our product discoveries and implement their vision and strategy to solve their current business challenges. It’s beneficial to get every member of the team to generate ideas, rank them, and collectively decide on the best features to meet the product goal. A lot of companies focus on solving a problem but don’t implement a plan to measure the success of the solution. Our process ensures that the product features we agree upon address specific metrics, enabling them to be measurable for future improvement. Our product team creates user personas that allow the entire team to build a user-centric product, where every product decision is made with the end user in mind.
A successful product discovery should produce:
- Problem Definition
- User Journey Map
- Pain and Gain Chart
- Feature Roadmap
- Visual Prototype
After the product discovery, you should be able to answer what you’re going to build, how to build the product, and when the work will be done.
After the product discovery, your team should be left with the following outputs:
- Product Features: A list of all features that will be included in the product.
- Prioritization: Once you have established the goals of the product and determined a set of potential features, you need to prioritize. You should have an understanding of what the most important feature is and what features come after this. This will help manage scope creep and focus the entire team on the overall goal.
- Product Roadmap: After you have established the product’s priorities, it’s important to have a unanimous roadmap that’s aligned with the client’s business goals. A product roadmap is used to communicate the direction and progress of the project to the entire team. Product roadmaps are a valuable tool to use for high-level product management and should be continuously updated and referenced throughout the lifecycle of the product to determine which priorities should be worked on and when.
Epics and Stories
Epics and Stories help to organize development into segments of features or problems being solved in the product. In agile development, an epic is a problem you’re solving on a larger scale of work and can contain many stories which are broken down into how you’re solving a particular problem. A story allows the development team to deliver a particular value to the customer. As the team learns more about an epic through development or customer feedback, user stories should be added or removed to optimize the efficiency of the project. The roadmap coordinates the direction to take in order to achieve the project’s goals with as little miscommunication as possible.
Manage Scope Creep With Product Definition
Product definition is notably valuable for managing scope creep, which is when a project grows far beyond its original size. If you haven’t properly defined the product, scope creep will likely occur, often deviating from the initial agreement of the product. Scope creep occurs when team members change their mind and suggest features that are irrelevant to the overall project goal which can cause a product to fail. Changes during product development are likely to occur however, it’s easy to let scope creep take control of your original vision and strategy. Once the product definition has been established, the team must carefully consider changes in the plan if they arise. Product definition ensures that the project remains focused on the goal, saving on cost and time.
At Clearbridge, product discovery is completed in an intensive 2-3 day onboarding and project kickoff process and by the end, we provide a set of deliverables that include the user journey, user personas, storyboard, wireframes/sketches, and a visual app prototype. Essentially, the product definition should establish the framework necessary to build an MVP. Having a solid product foundation will allow you to achieve buy-in, attract investors, and develop a minimum viable product.