FUNDAMENTALS OF PRODUCT MANAGEMENT: THE PROCESSES

Product discovery is simply, risk management

Product discovery is a variety of techniques that aims to minimize five key risks that product teams face:
1) Value
2) Usability
3) Feasibility
4) Viability
5) Ethics

Nima Torabi

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Photo by John Moeses Bauan on Unsplash

Product discovery is the main responsibility of product managers and it aims to mitigate five crucial risks opposing commercial value creation:

  • Value: is there a demand for the solution?
  • Usability: will the customers be able to understand and utilize our product?
  • Feasibility: can the engineering team build the solution?
  • Viability: does the solution meet our business objectives such as profit targets or legal considerations?
  • Ethics: should we build it considering the long/short-term negative impact of our solution?
Product discovery is a variety of techniques that aims to minimize five key risks that product teams face: 1) Value 2) Usability 3) Feasibility 4) Viability 5) Ethics
Product discovery aims to mitigate five risks: Value, Usability, Feasibility, Viability, and Ethics

Mitigating these risks means that the product manager needs to collaborate cross-functionally with other colleagues across analytics, marketing, engineering, legal, etc. to collect hard facts and evidence that will move the needle forward toward value creation.

The core fundamentals of managing product discovery risks

With the above risk in mind, here are some core fundamentals that product teams need to understand if they are to truly create value.

Value risk

  • Customers don’t know what solution works best for them as they barely know what possibilities exist with current technologies. The only thing they know is that they have a problem and desire a solution to it. This is what we generally associate Steve Jobs with saying
  • The most important goal is to create compelling value for customers; if this is done to perfection, all other risks will become irrelevant and other players in the risk ecosystem will need to adjust accordingly, very similar to what Uber did to the taxi industry. Therefore, the amount of time and depth product managers need to spend on this topic needs to be the largest and with the most rigor

Usability

  • While discovering and choosing the right technology and engineering is important, a great user experience is critical to success. The users don’t grasp technology and don’t care about it, but they quickly know whether they want to continue using your solution or not! Again, this is where we associate Steve Jobs emphasizing design at Apple
  • Functionality, design, and technology are increasingly more dependent on each other. Increasingly, technology drives and enables product functionality and design and vice versa. Furthermore, the design will drive and enable functionality, and there the loop is complete. Therefore, technology, functionality, and design come together to enable great value-creating/enabling products. Therefore, increasingly, product managers, designers, and technical leads need to work and collaborate closely with one another with minimal hierarchies.
  • Most ideas and features will not stick, because either they will not create tangible value, the design is too complicated, will not be feasible to build, or there may be legal issues. And the ones that do require several iterations before they find market fit. Therefore it’s important to know that you can’t know everything about what will work until you experiment.
  • You can’t anticipate customers’ responses without experimenting. Therefore all ideas and hypotheses need to be validated by real customers. And no, customer research and surveys will not be a valid substitute for getting actual products into customers’ hands.

Feasibility

  • Validate feasibility during product discovery and not on the first day of the first sprint. The decision on what to build should be done before and not after. Therefore it’s critical to have the engineers’ input during the discovery phase. The discovery process should be a shared cross-functional learning and not one driven through development cycles in silos.

Viability

  • The goal is to validate ideas and features in the fastest and cheapest way possible. There is a significant need for speed and that’s why agile methodologies were created. Effective teams need to test many different types of ideas and products to a variety of customers, quickly, to see what will work/stick and what won’t. Efficient product teams should utilize current discovery techniques to test 10–20 iterations of hypotheses per sprint, with most iterations not even making the cut to be presented to customers.
  • Validate the business model during discovery and not after initiating development. This will entail required investments, branding, go-to-market or launch, sales, legal, business development, etc.

Ethics

  • Always ask yourself: “Should we build it?” and “What is its long-term outcome?” Will the solution bring harm to people and the environment at some point? More often than none, ethically challenged designs and solutions can be fixed immediately

Hope you enjoyed reading this article! :)

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Nima Torabi

Present: Audio & Video Ent. Group PM at Rogers Media | Former: Fintech Startup Founder + Exit, Ex-Strategist @[Samsung], and Venture Founder @[Rocket Internet]