According to research, 90% of new startups fail. The evidence in multiple studies shows that there isn’t any singular explanation for this, but rather a culmination of different factors.
One of the crucial steps to save startups from failure is product discovery activity. This phase helps you understand the primary value proposition of the product and its probable relation to the market.
What is Product Discovery?
Product Discovery; is “the data-informed reduction of uncertainty regarding problems worth solving and solutions worth building through a series of nonlinear activities, conducted as a cross-functional team.”
This is a critical stage for the sustainable life span of any startup or new venture. Without any product discovery, companies can not have any credibility to prove or disprove assumptions about their customers. In the simplest terms, if a company lacks concrete product discovery, chances are, they are more likely to base their products or services on wrong assumptions. In the past decade, product discovery practices have increased exponentially because they assist companies in validating opportunities in the dangerous world of product development.
Product Discovery typically means an (adjustable) period during which companies focus on building the right thing instead of building the thing right (which would be Product Delivery). In any efficient startup(s), Product Teams work either on the problem or solution spaces. They either operate to understand whether a problem exists for their users, customers, or stakeholders, or they are focused on executing a matching solution.
Although working in both spaces is necessary to satisfy users and support the business, a weak plan of action can often get the allocation of time and attention wrong. Usually, product discovery is about the problem space. This space requires developers’ attention and a thorough ideation process explicitly. Experts generally divide this space into further steps so that they are catered carefully.
The Product Discovery phenomenon consists of a series of routes that the company has in mind:
- Curate assumptions around the product idea and see how it can assist the user.
- Explore the present issues users are facing by interviewing them or conducting surveys.
- Creating different user personas and demonstrating how each of their users will interact with the product.
After thoroughly creating assumptions, persona, and survey results regarding the product, the next phase lies in the solution space.
- Spending enough time analyzing user problems and understanding them to develop effective solutions.
- Defining core features of the product that will help the customers most in solving their pain points.
- Inspect all types of risks involved in product development — value, usability, and feasibility risks.
Why Product Discovery is needed?
As we move towards a modern way of thinking, the agile product discovery stage is considered valuable and pivotal, primarily as this phase determines the foundations of aspiring products. The development comes about in stages. We start by developing in smaller batch sizes, presenting each batch to stakeholders, and eventually moving towards customer input when it is realized how important it will be that the customer should know the usage of the product.
At this point, the intelligent approach comes into play with user experience design and design thinking. This helps to focus on the prerequisite required for products; hence, there needs to be a significant focus on user empathy.
This notion has continued to develop, with teams now asking whether users actually want what is being built. Most importantly, whether the units are solving the correct problems for their users.
Over time, new techniques have been implemented to ensure that the product discovery and delivery process is made faster. Specific teams have adapted the design sprint process, which involves a quick five-day session where outcomes and problems are discussed and solved vigilantly. Yet, a particular shortcoming is regarding the specifications of objectives and key results. If rushed, the team might not entirely be on the same page, leading to non-productive sprints. Hence, it is all about how a team organizes sprints to ensure they are as productive as possible.
How does this work?
During any product development life-cycle, the most critical role is played by the OKRs, which enable the team to answer the question regarding how to focus on specific outcomes and how can the team lead make sure that the entire team is aligning their goals to a particular result. By doing this, the team will be able to curate solutions based upon the most vital factors of any product, which are the objectives that the product aims to achieve. While deciding on these to create a base for the product, the team needs to be quick on their toes and keep the learning and development process fast.
As the product team creates its process, it can begin focusing on the outcomes such as increased engagement or increased revenue while ensuring customer satisfaction and a high NPS score. This route helps them gauge a path, further developing and curating the solution needed to achieve the outcome and simultaneously overcoming the problem. The process can get somewhat confusing, which is why teams have now come up with a concept called The Opportunity Solution Tree.
This tree breaks down the product discovery process. Without this phenomenon in place, it’s not plausible to develop any product in an impactful manner. The tree starts with outcomes; mainly, the team needs to determine their precise desired results, which would help the user experience and express the metrics required to measure the achievement of these outcomes. This is precisely why the outcomes need a quantitative measurement, such as an increase in revenue by 10% or a high NPS score by five. By starting with determining the outcomes, the team gets well-equipped and conscious of creating potential key results which give them a path to follow as they progress through the following steps.
Once the initial matrix has been defined, the next thing the team needs to do is discover the opportunity that will drive the desired outcomes. It is a known fact that “one can not find a thorough solution without deconstructing the problem thoroughly”; hence defining a problem and framing it in a particular manner can significantly influence how we solve it and the quality of solutions proposed by the team. But it is important to note that the word “problem” can also become problematic for specific products. Problems encourage the team to fix something, but sometimes, products do not need fixing; they need to be developed further for better functionality.
As a startup, what to expect from this phase?
For any startup to have a firm positioning, this phase can make or break the deal. As the team learns their product outcome and opportunity, they can finally move on to the solution phase, where all the stakeholders of the product team will come together to ideate and figure out new innovative ways to achieve the team’s goal. While coming up with solutions, the team must keep conducting weekly experiments. Hence, they can constantly understand whether the data shows the desired results and whether the answer is viable.
Instead of waiting till the very end to conduct these experiments, if they are done weekly, the team can constantly look at the latest data and research to make intelligent choices regarding the next step in developing the solution. The running of the prototype every week to be tested will make sure teams do not waste time creating a product of no value. Their time and effort are now used productively. Each stakeholder, i.e., Product Manager, Tech Lead, and UX Designer, is on the same page while developing a new product together.
Multiple teams have adopted this practice in today’s world, but they do not realize their method is of a set pattern. With the focus on product discovery, teams are releasing products with due diligence, which are on point with the user experience and making sure that the team’s effort is worthwhile to create a difference through their work. Without understanding the overall picture and doing a meta-analysis, teams will not develop unbiased products and achieve their outcomes to reach their product opportunities in the best way possible.
These learnings from successful product teams have been used to design the product discovery workshop at Venturenox. In the workshop, we help you discover the needs of your users and the best positioning for your product. Once the development starts, we continue to learn from your product’s users and take all the proper steps for your product.