How to Connect the Dots in Product Discovery
The ingredients for effective and collaborative product discovery
Delivering new features is often costly and time-consuming, and if you’ve made a false assumption about what your users actually need or want, then you’ll have sunk a bunch of resources into a feature that’ll go underutilized. That’s where product discovery comes in as a way to understand your customer’s underlying needs, research, and validate your ideas before starting product delivery.
In order to be effective at product discovery, you need to first take a step back and really understand how to create an impactful process in your organization. Read on for insights — from three special guests who spoke at recent Product Makers community events — into what it takes to develop successful product discovery.
Develop the right qualitative research approach
So why is product discovery an effective process? Timoté Geimer, the CEO of product management consulting firm dualoop, says that product discovery works because it’s the right blend of quantitative research and qualitative research.
While Product Managers would ideally use data to drive all their decisions, it’s often impossible to gather the large volume of data needed to validate hypotheses with a purely data-driven approach. Qualitative research is necessary because it’s faster, cheaper, and more accessible.
Plus, qualitative research is proven to work. It’s been around in some form since ancient times, and has since evolved to include a wide range of methods. The most common of these for Product Managers is the “grounded theory” approach, where you collect data and analyze that data simultaneously, often in the forms of interviews, focus groups, or case studies.
Timoté shares some of his guiding principles to follow for your qualitative research:
- Refine and adapt as you go — product discovery is an iterative process
- Know when you’ve reached the point of saturation, where you’re unlikely to gather any new information through qualitative research
- Understand and correct for the various factors that might contribute to skewing results (audience sampling, reflexivity, bias, etc.)
- Look at your research from different perspectives by mixing theories and data sources
For a deeper dive into setting up a scientifically valid research method, watch our webinar recording with Timoté:
Foster collaboration between research and product teams
To conduct the best product discovery work, you’ll need to do research. If you have a researcher on your team already, make sure you’re putting them to work! After all, they’re the ones who are fully immersed with the users and customers, figuring out why they do what they do and why they pay for what they pay for. Researchers can find the similarities between customers and connect that to the products.
But building collaboration between the research and product teams can be challenging — that’s because researchers are often the last to join the product side. Gregg Bernstein, the Director of User Research at Hearst Magazines and the author of Research Practice, sees researchers do their best work when they have situational awareness and context.
To that end, Gregg suggests implementing a “pre-mortem,” where the team predicts the worst-case scenarios before starting a project. By acknowledging that things will likely go wrong, you can create a more flexible and collaborative mindset right from the beginning.
Meanwhile, researchers may need to be willing to put themselves out there and become consultants and coaches to the rest of the product team. Providing that guidance can help orient everyone toward a customer-centric goal and work in lockstep.
Watch the rest of our conversation with Gregg here:
Create an impact map
To ensure you’re making the right decisions in the product discovery process, you’ll want to undergo an impact mapping exercise. This is an excellent way to connect your product discovery tactics to the top priorities. Tim Herbig, a product management coach and consultant, explains the different levels of impact mapping:
First, you’ll need to determine the impact — or the company- or department-wide measure of success — whether it’s user growth, engagement, monetization, satisfaction, or something else. At this level, you need to be able to answer the “why”: Why does this effort matter?
Next, you’ll want to address the “who”: Who has a problem that prevents you from achieving impact? Who are the “on-stage actors” (those who use your product) and the “off-stage actors” (those who are impacted by your product but aren’t regular users)?
From here, you can then determine the outcomes that help you move in the direction of impact, as well as the output. What are the solutions to create the outcome? Which high-level deliverables still need to be validated?
Finally, you can experiment and test to see whether a solution is actually worth implementing. Check out Tim’s full video for more details and to see an impact map being created:
Get more product discovery tips
Product discovery is an incredibly useful way to make sure you’re allocating the right resources to the right features. It’s an iterative process, though, so start applying some of these principles (as well as those in our product discovery playbook) to figure out what works best for you and your organization. For even more tips or to discuss product discovery with others, join the Productboard Product Makers community — you can check out our past events and recaps or sign up for future events!