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Product Discovery – Building the Right Things

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By Saadia Minhas, Delivery Excellence Manager at Teradata

In recent years organisations are facing challenges due to changing market dynamics, rapidly evolving technologies and shifting user expectations. It becomes difficult to make assumptions about the features and services that will satisfy users. This leads to building and launching products which has no user demand in the market and hence the organisations fail to produce the desired financial results. One of the reasons for this failure is insufficient product discovery.

Product discovery is a process that cross functional product teams follow to reduce the uncertainty about a problem worth solving and a solution worth developing. This process ensures the development of products that are market-fit, provide a good user experience, and are aligned with the business strategy of the organisation.

Why product discovery is important?

To find the right problem

The product discovery process includes both finding a problem worth solving and devising a solution worth developing. However, a large part of the product discovery process involves a good understanding of the problem. Finding the right problem is the first and most important step towards developing an effective solution for it. Thus, the teams need to spend reasonable time in analysing the real problem users are facing and design a solution that best fits the users’ needs.

To build a validated product backlog

A product is a combination of features and services. The discovery of a real problem and finding a solution for it is important to the success of a product as it is the way to distinguish between good and bad ideas. When teams create a list of good ideas as an output of product discovery, they can convert those ideas into product features. These product features help to create a validated product backlog which is the foundation of a product that satisfies users’ needs.

To align product roadmap with market demands

If we go to a higher-level, the product backlog serves as the strategic plan of the product roadmap. The product roadmap defines the product vision and communicates it throughout the organisation. It is critical to integrate the product discovery activities into the product road-mapping process. This allows you to validate your ideas early in the process and define your product roadmap by adding items that are necessary and removing items that do not align with the market dynamics and organisation’s business strategy.

Product Discovery Process

The teams can define the phases of the product discovery process as per their requirements and nature of the product they are working on. The purpose is to test the assumptions and reduce uncertainty to a level that makes it possible to start developing a solution that brings value to both users and business. 

Below is a list of phases that are commonly used for product discovery process.

  1. Alignment of team
    The team needs to develop a shared understanding of the problem in hand, whether it is a new product or a new feature in an existing product. The team knows,

    1. what is the priority of the problem?
    2. why are we working on it?
    3. how does this relate to the product strategy?
    4. how will it help us to differentiate from our competitors?
  • User Research 

Conduct user research to know about users and their problems. Develop empathy maps, conduct interviews and surveys, and define user personas.

  • Ideation 

Analyse the information collected in previous phases along with team. Use this information to develop ideas to solve the user problem. The ideation can be done as paper sketches, user flows and wireframes.

  • Prototype 

Convert ideas into tangible artifacts like a minimum viable prototype. The proposed solution is represented in the form of clickable prototypes that depict the idea of the product to be developed for users.

  • Validation 

The prototype is tested among a number of potential users. The outcome of the validation phase is user feedback that helps to refine the problem as well as the proposed solution before jumping into the development stage.

  • Refinement 

Based on user feedback, the team refines the idea and comes up with a better understanding of the problem and its possible solution.

Product discovery is an iterative process and teams can repeat until the problem is well-understood and a solution is devised.

Product discovery helps to reduce uncertainty to a level that makes it possible to develop a product that provides value to customers as well as businesses. The need of product discovery in product development process has increased since companies do not want to fail by launching a product that has no demand in the market.


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