TOOLS FOR A PRODUCT MINDSET
Help your team understand customers, get the right features to market quickly, and grow your company
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How do we define success? Organizations who do well in the software development space are growing faster, more profitably, and have high customer engagement. Why?
Because they understand what customers want: They achieve these milestones because they build features that their customers want. Companies invested in CX are nimble and adapt quickly.
They continuously adapt: Not only do they build the features customers want, they also are continuously adapting and improving those features. They never settle on quality and always look to improve. According to an Aptimize study, there are 10,000 apps in the iOS app store. The Top 100 ranked apps released three times as often as the other 9,900 apps available. The truly elite apps, like Facebook and Pinterest, released updates ten times more frequently than the rest of the top 100. They’re the elite because they are able to constantly improve and provide a better take on what users want through testing and striving for perpetual advancement.
They operate with speed/efficiency: It doesn’t take a large team or a huge budget to accomplish these goals; WhatsApp grew to its level of success rapidly with only a team of 50. This is a perfect example of doing a lot with a little; the biggest requirement is focus and prioritization of what will make the biggest impact on your customer.
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Personas give us a way to think about who exists beyond the screen and what their life looks like, what motivates them, frustrates them and what they are trying to do with our product. This helps us make informed decisions about how to better serve them and drive adoption, referrals and retention
Imagine a representative person in your customer segment. What does this customer look like in your mind’s eye? How would this person describe themselves to others? How would someone describe this person in an email? How would you spot them walking down the street?
Fill in the triggers, goals and product useage boxes according to the directions on the sheet.
Compare your inputs with your colleagues and come up with a description of who you think these people are so you can go talk to them to see if your assumptions are true.
Use these personas when making decisions about what features to build, why and how.
Generate a lot of options that will help creating the desired outcomes for the customer and your business. The goal is to come up with many options, even crazy one, so you can choose from a diverse group and not be limited by group think.
Remind your team of your persona and the outcomes you are building for
Set a clock for around 5 minutes
Have each person come up with ideas
In the bottom left, score the idea by business value (L = Low, M = Medium, H = High)
In the bottom right, score the idea by level of effort to implement (L = Low, M = Medium, H = High)
Release planning helps the team understand how we get new stories or features to market. It also helps us prioritize requests from stakeholders or leaders in the business. A release is anytime you push out new features. Some companies do this multiple times a day but most do it every two weeks for monthly.
Each release should include features your customers can use. Imagine the email or notice you are going to send out to your customers telling them how you have improved things for them.
This is a simplified version of the release planning we do so you can get used to thinking about how to break down and order work so you can minimize time to value.
Have a list of your features/stories handy
Sort the stories by most important, things your customer need first. (Focusing on providing value with each release)
Write down your features on each line of the release columns.
*note - each release can span multiple sprints
With a fair amount of options generated that having an intial value and effort rating, you need to focus down to a few that you will spend more time and energy developing. By evaluating your options against a number of criteria for your business you will be able to further narrow your list to find the options worth further investigation.
Have your team refer to the ideas they created and ranked and enter them into the matrix as individual rows.
Have each person/group start with the top row and attempt to proceed from left to right through the matrix.
If the idea passes the criteria you’ve created for that column, place a plus sign and proceed to the next column.
If the idea does not meet the criteria, place a minus sign and immediately move to the next row.
Use the matrix to find the ideas with the highest number of plus signs and use the bottom half of the worksheet to begin further developing those ideas.
Canvas exercises like the Business Model Canvas, Lean Canvas or our version have many benefits:
UNDERSTANDING THE PRODUCT
Who is the customer? What is their problem? How do we make money? What assumptions have been made? See how the pieces are intended to fit together.
These sessions help stakeholders discover they aren’t quite as aligned as they think they are. They use words differently, they see the customer differently, prioritize differently and it often goes unnoticed or unresolved.
Time: 1-2 Hours
Tools: Worksheets, whiteboard, collaboration software
Audience: Product and business leaders
Draw the canvas on a whiteboard, print it out or use collaboration software like Google Drawings so everyone can see what is being created so they can make adjustments or ask questions.
Starting with the customer segment, have the group share their thoughts about each area
Periodically check to make sure each section works with the other section
Share your canvas with the team and stakeholders. Then review it on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly)
Interviews help us learn our customer’s pain, needs, behaviors, goals and motivation. Done well, interviews help us test our assumptions and create a product that customers need along with an experience they want.
Deliberately avoid anything that might make them feel like they are a research subject in a lab. Try to make sure no one feels like there is a right answer and to leave things open so the person can talk about what’s important or painful to them. Connecting the dots between interviews is a bit more complex when you are less structured but the quality and richness of what you learn is well worth it.
We often ask people to describe a day in the life or the last time they did something. Humans are terrible at predicting our own behavior, you can see it in our failed New Year’s resolutions. Understanding past behavior is more helpful creating products.
Time: 30m to 1 hr
Tools: Worksheet and pen or pencil
Audience: Product team members
Conducting the interview:
Welcome your interview subject
Ask them to describe their day or a process
Write down or sketch the process
Ask follow up questions to understand why they did what they did
Repeat for the time allotted.
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