Understanding the customer needs and developing a product which helps fulfill those needs, defines the usability of the product. With varied perceptions of the underlying problems, assumptions over customer behavior and cognitive bias for a solution, it may get cumbersome to determine the right product that delivers value.
To develop a usable product, it is important for all involved in product discovery to collaborate and develop a common vision, strategic goals and shared understanding. A meaningful product discovery helps to map problems to potential solutions, and potential solutions to expected results.
In this article, we will discover ways that can help teams with determining the key objectives and developing a common vision for the product.
Created by Jeff Patton; author of book “User Story Mapping” and inspired by Marty Cagan’s work on Opportunity Assessment template, the Opportunity Canvas is an exploration and collaboration tool that brings all related information in a single canvas view. Be it a product idea, a new feature in your existing product or a problem with an unexplored solution, the opportunity canvas enables you to collaborate, discuss and assess the opportunity at hand.
When to use it?
Opportunity canvas is a useful at the time of product discovery. In your quest to explore and develop an understanding of certain business processes and customer needs, opportunity canvas can be a great starting point. As a product discovery tool, the opportunity canvas could be drawn on a whiteboard or printed on a sheet, as convenient. The ideas could be filled in with sticky notes, pictures, workflow, and text.
Who should be involved?
Anyone who can contribute to the opportunity and product discovery. In case you are following the Scrum framework, this could be represented as an interaction between the Product owner, development team and any other invited Stakeholders.
How to use?
Decide a place, a few markers, sticky-notes, papers, whiteboard, and all that you need to express your thoughts. Bring in the people who could contribute or hold a stake in your solution and begin from the first section till the end as indicated in the canvas template. If you have drawn the opportunity canvas on a bigger board, you can paste your sticky-notes.
The below infographic shows the product roadmap to deliver a high-quality product successfully.
Section 1: Start with a problem or the idea
You have a problem to solve, that may be impeding your business; manual work, product issues, inefficient processes, customer retention & growth challenges or disruptive competition. Start with it.
You have an idea that offers something new to your customers, which they haven’t experienced as yet. You believe your solution idea is disruptive and may change how the things are structured. Start with that.
Section 2: Users and Customers
Identify users and customers; describe their challenges that you are trying to address through this opportunity. The user and customers can either be the same group of people or different depending on the product. In general, customers are users who pay a cost for certain desired services e.g. premium accounts; unlike users who may be interested in basic or free offerings.
Identify the type of users and their distinct goals.
Section 3: What solutions exist today?
Discover what happens today. How users are working around the given problem. This will highlight the limitations of the current solution and as you discover this, you may come across more problems that may be hampering your customers
Section 4: Business Challenges
The challenges faced by users and customers are likely to impact your business. Persistent issues may disengage the users from your product and services. They may open opportunities for competition; which is a risk of losing business.
In the case of manual and time consuming repeatable efforts to serve customer needs, your staff may be constantly engaged in firefighting and have little opportunity to innovate and improve; it’s a growth risk. Discover how different challenges faced by customers are hurting your business?
Section 5. How will users use your solution?
As you discuss the problems and challenges or ponder upon an idea, you will discover potential solutions. In this section, think about how the user will interact with this potential solution? How will this solution impact the user behavior? And how do you expect users to benefit from it?
Section 6. User Metrics
How do you know if a given solution works well or not? Defining user metrics will help set objectives to measure the usability of the product. Based on the user behavior as gathered in the Section 5 above, think about the indicators that will help measure the degree of acceptance of your solution. How will you know that users find value in your solution?
Section 7. Adoption Strategy
Think about how customers will discover your solution. What channels may draw customers to your product. For instance, it could be either referral from existing customers or marketing through media. If your solution is for internal usage of the organization, think about how you will help users to migrate from their existing methods to a new solution.
Section 8. Business benefits and metrics
Once the users have adopted your solution; what impact is it likely to make to your business? And what are the parameters to measure that? The solution may be expected to generate outcomes like direct revenue growth through an increase in customer base; or remedy a loss-making business process.
Section 9: Budget
This section helps you evaluate and compare the proposed solution to any alternatives, based on economic feasibility. What are the implications of not addressing the problem? If the proposed solution is applied, what benefit it may bring to business in monetary terms? What budget may an organization allocate to experiment, learn and validate any assumptions about the proposed solution?
At the end of this exercise, you may expect some of the following outcomes
Once you have gathered your thoughts and have developed a shared understanding, it’s useful to summarize it and form a vision that group can stick and look up to in the course of building the solution.
A concise, compelling and unambiguous vision helps the team to remain focused on its product goals. A vision should define the product objectives, its intended customers, value proposition and differentiating factor from competitor’s product, or a predecessor product or workflow that you intend to replace.
The elevator pitch mentioned in Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm”, is a popular template to define a product vision.
Define the target customer for your product. If you have used an opportunity canvas to explore your users and customers, those will go here.
Summarize the core challenges faced by the customer.
Write the name of the product. You don’t need to spend too much time on choosing a name at the beginning. Just put an identifier codename.
Define the type of the product. A website or a mobile application or service, as applicable.
Mention the key features of your product that align with the value desired by the target customers.
Name and comparable feature of a product that you are competing against. In case your product is meant for internal consumption and replaces either a manual process or a legacy application, describe that here.
Express how your product is different from the competition and highlight the benefits.
In summary, the tools like Opportunity canvas and Vision statement help all involved in product discovery to identify customers, define key objectives and measurable outcomes through collaboration and shared understanding. The opportunity canvas takes you through a journey to explore and discover the challenges and solutions, and helps you define a product roadmap. The vision statements, on the other hand, lets you summarize your key objectives in a concise, unambiguous way to keep you focused.
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