Product discovery is a vital phase in the creation of any new product. It involves identifying and reducing uncertainties to develop confidence in investing resources in developing a successful product.
Prioritizing product discovery opportunities allows businesses to manage the risks associated with uncertainty and make informed decisions based on sound evidence, ultimately increasing their chances of success. However, not all product discovery is equal. There are various levels of uncertainty or assumptions, such as strategic assumptions, business model assumptions, product assumptions, and tactical assumptions.
To prioritize product discovery opportunities effectively, it is crucial to understand and address these different levels of uncertainty. We will delve deeper into this in the following section.
How to Prioritize Product Discovery Opportunities
In broad terms, we can categorize product discovery into three types: strategic product discovery, product definition discovery, and problem-solving discovery.
Strategic product discovery focuses on strategic and business model assumptions, whereas product definition discovery focuses on product assumptions. Problem-solving discovery, on the other hand, deals with tactical assumptions.
Therefore, we recommend utilizing distinct prioritization frameworks for each situation to ensure efficient prioritization:
- For strategic product discovery, consider using a framework that assesses the potential impact of different assumptions on the overall business strategy.
- For product definition discovery, a framework that evaluates the desirability, feasibility, and viability of different product assumptions could be useful.
- For problem-solving discovery, a framework that prioritizes assumptions based on their impact on immediate tactical problems could be more effective.
Adapting and utilizing the appropriate prioritization framework for each type of product discovery can help product teams make informed decisions and mitigate uncertainty effectively.
Each prioritization technique necessitates an effort that corresponds to the strategic level at which it is being implemented. In the following section, we will delve into the specifics of each prioritization technique for product discovery.
Potential / Challenge (Strategic Initiatives)
Numerous techniques can be utilized to evaluate the feasibility of a strategy. One approach that I find particularly effective involves assessing the market opportunity through an examination of its potential and challenges. This technique was created by Mark Gruber and Sharon Tal and is detailed in their book entitled “Where to Play.”
An appealing market opportunity is one that is likely to generate considerable potential for value creation and presents relatively few challenges in capturing that value. One method for evaluating a strategic alternative is by assessing it along two dimensions: potential and challenge.
Evaluating a strategic alternative based on its potential and challenge is a common approach to analyze the feasibility and potential success of a particular course of action. In this approach, “potential” refers to the factors that make the alternative attractive and likely to be successful, while “challenge” refers to the obstacles and risks that may impede its implementation or impact its chances of success.
To evaluate the potential of a strategic alternative, we consider three crucial factors: the “compelling reason to buy,” the “market size,” and the “economic viability.” To evaluate the challenge of a strategic alternative, we consider three essential factors: the “implementation obstacles,” the “time to revenue,” and the “external risks.”
What I find compelling about this method is that it leaves minimal room for opinions and second-guessing. The evaluation technique is a business discovery process that objectively assesses the viability of a strategy based on concrete factors.
Uncertainty / Impact (Roadmap Themes)
Perhaps, the most frequent source of product discovery opportunities is the product roadmap, if properly designed and implemented.Product Discovery does not have to be seen as an occasional or extravagant practice, but as part of the normal operation of modern product teams.
The product roadmap, if designed and implemented correctly, is perhaps the most common source of product discovery opportunities. Product discovery need not be regarded as an infrequent or extravagant practice, but rather as a routine aspect of the daily operations of modern product teams.
The above figure displays an illustration of a product roadmap implementation with an integrated product discovery process. The initiatives that enter the pipeline undergo a screening process that culminates in the decision to either include them in the roadmap or discard them.
All initiatives that make it onto the roadmap must fulfill the necessary requirements to enter the ‘Ready for Discovery’ buffer, which functions as a queue and must be prioritized for maximum benefit. The outcome of the discovery process will be the rejection of the Theme or its inclusion in the ‘Ready for Delivery’ buffer.
Prioritizing product discovery opportunities can be a challenging task due to the unknowns involved. Nonetheless, by evaluating the level of uncertainty associated with each idea, you can start pinpointing the concepts worth exploring in greater depth during the Product Discovery phase.
The upper right quadrant usually contains the most promising and intriguing ideas, which should be given priority for further evaluation. On the other hand, ideas located in the lower right quadrant should be assessed from a delivery perspective.
This entails carefully evaluating their feasibility in terms of resources, timeline, and other constraints.
While prioritizing product discovery opportunities, it’s important to acknowledge that the process involves a certain level of uncertainty. However, by promoting a shared understanding within your team and organization about which ideas are most promising, you can identify and invest in the opportunities that hold the greatest potential for success.
Keep in mind that prioritization is not a precise science, but a collaborative effort to make informed decisions that lead to better outcomes.
ICE (Product Growth & Continuous Improvement)
To prioritize product growth issues or incremental product improvements, it is often useful to employ a lightweight prioritization technique. One such technique is ICE, which was created by Sean Ellis and stands for Impact, Confidence, and Ease.
The ICE method involves assigning a score to each idea based on its potential impact, the team’s confidence in its potential success, and the ease of implementation.
Ideas are then ranked in order of their total ICE score, with higher-scoring ideas being prioritized for further exploration and development.
While this technique may not be as comprehensive as other prioritization methods, it can be a quick and effective way to identify and prioritize ideas for small-scale improvements or growth initiatives.
The situation at hand is tactical, as the focus is on evaluating ideas that need to be validated prior to implementation.
The impetus for the product discovery process is often a declining product metric. The product team works together to investigate the issue and generate multiple ideas for resolving it. Prioritization of these ideas is necessary before moving on to validation, where they will be put to the test.
For further information on this method, refer to Sean Ellis’ book ‘Hacking Growth’.