In order to establish a successful product discovery process within your organization, it’s crucial to recognize the close relationship between product strategy and product discovery. The product development journey involves a series of hypotheses that need to be validated through various levels of strategy, from the highest levels down to the technical details.
This means progressing from strategic hypotheses to hypotheses about the business model, then on to product hypotheses, and ultimately technical hypotheses. By comprehending this process, you can ensure that your product discovery efforts are appropriately aligned with your overall product strategy.
To create a seamless transition between strategy and delivery, product discovery is a crucial process that incrementally reduces uncertainty around a solution aimed to address a strategic challenge. Understanding how product discovery relates to product strategy, product goals, and product roadmap is essential in developing an effective product discovery practice. In the following sections, we’ll explore these strategic levels to help you bridge the gap and achieve success in your organization.
The Relationship Between Product Strategy and Product Discovery
To create an effective product strategy, it’s important to follow a strategy design process that includes two distinct phases: definition and validation. During the definition phase, the focus is on increasing strategic awareness and identifying potential paths forward through the creation of strategic themes. These themes are made up of a strategic challenge, an opportunity, and a solution.
The solution is defined through a ‘Where to Play’ and ‘How to Win’ decision, which form the basis of the strategic theme. This solution is then validated in the second phase of the strategy design process, where it’s tested against the market, the competition, and the organization’s capabilities. By following this process, you can ensure that your product strategy is well-defined, aligned with your organization’s goals, and supported by solid evidence.
After selecting the strategic themes, the next step is to validate the assumptions made during the definition phase of the strategy design process. This involves running experiments to test the hypotheses and identify a winning strategy. To summarize the strategy and connect it with the product vision, mission, and principles, the Product Vision Board Canvas can be used. This canvas enables visualizing the product strategy and ensures alignment with the overall vision and mission.
After selecting a strategic direction, it’s critical to validate it, and this is where the process of product discovery becomes crucial. However, it’s important to distinguish between business discovery and product discovery.
While business discovery focuses on identifying and validating the business model and market opportunities, product discovery is focused on designing and testing the features and functionality of a specific product. By understanding the differences between these two approaches, you can ensure that your product discovery efforts are aligned with your overall business strategy.
Business Discovery vs Product Discovery
While some experts group business validation and product validation under product discovery, it’s important to distinguish between these activities.
Business discovery occurs once you have a candidate strategic theme and involves defining the business model, identifying the riskiest assumptions, and validating them. This process gauges market opportunity by analyzing potential and challenges, and tackles business viability risk. Business discovery answers the question: “Is there a potentially viable, sustainable, and scalable business model?”
On the other hand, product discovery typically focuses on building the right thing by understanding the problem space and finding the best solution. This period involves finding the problem-solution fit and answering the question: “Can we build the right product for the right audience?”
While the process of developing a product strategy and validating it through business and product discovery is not always a linear one, it’s important to start with a clear strategic direction.
Once you have defined your strategy, you can then move on to business discovery and determine the viability of your potential business model by identifying and validating the riskiest assumptions.
Finally, you can shift your focus to product discovery and build the right product that will help you capture your target market.
To illustrate, let’s consider the example of a shoe startup. As the founder, your first step is to engage in a creative process to define your strategy. Once you have several strategic themes, you’ll evaluate them using business discovery techniques to gauge their potential and challenge. This will involve analyzing aspects such as market size, cost, key activities, partnerships, revenue model, and time to revenue.
After selecting the most viable strategic option, you’ll then move on to the product discovery phase, where you’ll focus on understanding the needs of your target audience, their jobs-to-be-done, and crafting a compelling value proposition. This value proposition will then be validated through a series of experiments before building the product.
During this phase, you’ll need to validate the desirability, feasibility, and usability of your product through various means, including:
- Types of shoes by user segment
- Shoe design
- Materials, supply, and operational capabilities
- Testing with users
To ensure the success of your shoe startup, it’s essential to validate your strategic and product hypotheses before moving on to mass production. If any of the previous steps fail, you’ll need to go back one step upstream and choose another option.
This approach ensures that you don’t invest time and money in building the wrong product. Instead, you can focus on finding the best solution for your customers and the market. By following this process, you can minimize risk and increase the likelihood of creating a successful product.
The Relationship between OKRs and Product Discovery
When your product is already in the market and you need to grow and compete, your product discovery efforts will likely be guided by a product goal, often in the form of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), or a product metric, such as a North Star Metric (NSM) or One Metric That Matters (OMTM).
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a powerful tool for product teams to define and measure success. By aligning specific product goals with quantifiable metrics, OKRs enable teams to prioritize their day-to-day activities and make strategic decisions.
Product goals are the natural consequence of product strategy, and it’s important to keep the two concepts distinct.
One of the challenges of using OKRs in product management is syncing the discovery and delivery processes with goal cycles. In other words, syncing product strategy definition and review cycles with product discovery and delivery cycles.
To overcome this challenge, product teams need to prepare for upcoming delivery-oriented OKRs by setting exploratory OKRs in a previous cycle.
This approach allows teams to lay the groundwork for success without rushing through the discovery and delivery process. Of course, it’s crucial to ensure that these OKRs are directly tied to actual strategic themes, rather than being used as a task list to keep the team busy.
The Relationship between the Product Roadmap and Product Discovery
A Product Roadmap is often used as a source of inspiration and guidance for upcoming discovery priorities. By providing clear priorities and activities, a well-crafted roadmap can offer a solid foundation for product discovery efforts. However, the design of the roadmap can impact the team’s autonomy for product discovery. If a roadmap requires the delivery of new features in a short timeframe, there is a risk of overlooking potential areas for growth and improvement.
To ensure a successful integration of the product roadmap, it’s crucial to have high confidence in the current quarter’s areas of focus while remaining open to new information and insights. An outcome-based roadmap approach that allows for flexible time horizons can offer valuable guidance as you project further into the future.
Regularly updating the roadmap and aligning it with product strategy and goal review cadences allows the team to remain agile and prioritize the most impactful work. In summary, product roadmaps can be an effective tool for prioritizing product teams’ work, but it’s important to approach them with flexibility and openness to change. With a well-crafted roadmap, your team can navigate the product discovery process and drive meaningful outcomes.
Effectively Integrating Product Discovery
Effective integration of Product Discovery into the value chain is essential for successfully implementing this practice within an organization. Product Discovery should not be considered an occasional or extravagant practice but rather as a standard part of modern product teams’ operations. Therefore, it is crucial to make sure that Product Discovery is visible and seamlessly integrated with the main strategic product tool, which is the product roadmap.
This integration will ensure that the priorities and activities chosen for Product Discovery are aligned with the overall strategy of the organization and that the results of Product Discovery are integrated into the product roadmap for execution. By doing so, organizations can create a culture of continuous discovery and improvement, leading to better products and increased customer satisfaction.
The figure above illustrates a product roadmap implementation and its integration with the product discovery process used by one of my clients in their product organization. In this approach, all initiatives undergo a screening process to determine whether they should be incorporated into the roadmap or rejected. To be included in the roadmap, each initiative must meet the necessary conditions to enter the “Ready for Discovery” buffer.
Once an initiative is included in the “Ready for Discovery” buffer, the product discovery team takes over, conducting research and analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the user needs, market trends, and other relevant factors. The team then validates the solution hypothesis before advancing to the development phase.
By using this process, our client’s product organization ensured that the product discovery process is visible and integrated into the strategic product roadmap. This approach allowed them to make informed decisions based on thorough research and analysis, and prioritize initiatives that were more likely to drive meaningful outcomes.
To kick-off the discovery process, the product team will first align and set clear objectives. The result of the process should be a decision to either discard the roadmap theme or incorporate it into the “Ready for Delivery” buffer.
Aligning product discovery efforts with overall product strategy is essential to building products that meet customers’ needs, solve real problems, and achieve business goals. This approach can help prevent the pitfall of merely refining existing solutions and missing discovery opportunities. With the right approach and tools, product discovery can become a natural and integral part of product development processes within organizations.
To successfully implement product discovery, understanding the relationship between the different levels of product strategy and how they relate to product discovery is vital. At the highest level, defining the product’s overall vision and strategic direction is necessary. Then, at the business level, validating the viability of the business model and identifying the riskiest assumptions is crucial. Finally, at the product level, building the right thing by understanding the problem space and finding the best solution is necessary.
It is essential to note that these levels are not strictly sequential and may require going back and forth between them as assumptions are validated and strategy adjusted. A well-crafted product roadmap is a critical tool for integrating product discovery into the value chain, ensuring that the right initiatives are prioritized, and incorporated into the discovery process.