In our last blog post on Product Management we talked about the purpose of the discipline at a high level. Product management is about creating better commercial outcomes through digital solutions by determining what the right thing to build is.
In this post, we wanted to bring the discipline to life by describing how Product Management can support solving the specific strategic challenges of defining a new product or a feature. Through our partnerships with clients, we have seen that introducing effective Product Management early on can have a huge positive impact on the life of a product. It sets it on the right course and keeps it there.
So what are the three steps to defining an awesome product?
- Having an objective criteria for decision making
Defining a digital product is not just about cramming in feature after feature (output). It’s about building the right thing for the business and user (outcome). Crucially it’s about understanding why something is the right thing to build and why something else is maybe the wrong thing to build.
Therefore, you need a basis for decision making over an above opinion and ‘gut-feel’ which is often rooted in authority, not evidence. Effective Product Managers set a clear strategy for the product from day one. The rest of the team are heavily involved in this to ensure everyone is on the journey together. The product strategy should not just describe the future state you’re looking to achieve, but also practical guidance on how to get there in the form of rules and principles. Crucially, communicating this to the wider team leads to better products, more quickly.
- Being able to validate an idea before launch
One of the biggest causes of failure in digital products blowing the budget on something which wasn’t validated and tested and which therefore doesn’t create the required outcome (it wasn’t a minimially viable product). Usually this step is skipped due to time pressures (combined with decision making based on authority not evidence). At Nodes we ideate as a cross-functional team of UX, tech and business. This means that ideas can be rigorously tested and validated before being shipped.
Testing ideas early is a far more cost effective way to understand if a feature or product is really going to deliver the minimum commercial and user value you want. It’s important to involve real users, early, through pilot programmes and co-development workshops. This is how to filter out the less-effective ideas and get to a lean, effective product. In order to get to ‘yes’, sometimes you need to say ‘no’. A lot.
- Creating and sticking to a healthy roadmap
You’ve defined a clear product strategy and defined an awesome MVP. So what now? Building a healthy roadmap is at the heart of building sustainably successful products and carrying this momentum forward. Rightly so, your stakeholders need to know what is coming and when, so that budget, resource and expertise can be planned in. However, communicating this information is by far one of the biggest challenges that Product Managers and teams have.
By adopting a problem-based approach instead of a feature-based approach it’s easier to manage expectations and deliver better products. This is because you’re focussing on outcome, not output. This also makes product teams more accountable for delivering real value, not just features. Something should only make it onto the roadmap if it’s clearly articulated, based on insight and data and is consistent with the product strategy. When the Product Strategy is used together with a problem-based-roadmap, they dramatically reduce the risk of fragmentation, dilution and ultimately ineffectiveness.
If you would like to know more about Product Management or talk about how Nodes can support your team, please get in touch.