It’s hard out there for a Product Manager. Ever-increasing customer expectations now require more frequent updates and enhancements to existing digital products. But most product teams already have a catalog of improvements they want to get to, sometimes with multiple priorities, multiple design and dev teams, and limited funding and resources. It’s hard to innovate and meet new customer needs when you spend most of your time just keeping the trains running.
So how do you innovate under so many constraints? We help our clients get past roadblocks to success with a number of techniques that can be applied individually or combined for even greater understanding. Each has a unique value that can help relieve the pain-points of product teams. These are not the only techniques available, but are often how we help clients.
Very often products have grown up slowly over time bit-by-bit without a guiding plan. As a result these wayward products can have feature-bloat, poor enhancement outcomes, and an unclear value proposition. Having a product strategy in place provides principals and clear goals to guide feature enhancements and product evolution.
Product Concepting & Prototyping
Experimenting with new features, and next-gen updates to products is always difficult when teams are busy with managing a live product. But you can experiment safely with product concepting and prototyping, before writing a single line of code. Prototyping is especially helpful for designing, testing, and validating a new feature idea or a whole new product. It allows for true innovation without a lot of expense, and zero risk since it doesn’t interfere with current work streams or live environments. Plus, when it comes time to build, a prototype can portray the intended design and experience much more effectively than requirements alone.
Customer Journey Mapping
If you aren’t mapping your customer’s experience, you are very likely missing out on understanding what they really do with your product, and how it fits into their lives. Customer journey mapping can be applied to the overarching end-to-end journey, or used to boil down a specific pain-point and get to the root cause of it. Many companies are finding out the value of using this Service Design technique for product design as well. Journey mapping can also be done in a rapid, fun workshop format that brings cross-functional teams together in collaboration and idea-generation.
Usability testing doesn’t have to be a huge, expensive endeavor and the value of performing it can be tremendous. There are also many great online testing services that allow you to take it out of the lab and into your customer’s world for even greater effectiveness. Usability testing can also uncover unknown needs and potential innovations that only interactions with customers can reveal.
Sometimes just knowing what to do next is the hardest part, especially when you have competing priorities from various stakeholders and business units. Our prioritization tools and techniques cut through the noise and bring everyone together on what’s most important. Measuring importance through the eyes of the customer, the business, and technical capabilities creates less friction among stakeholders. It also easily identifies important quick-wins, along with longer-term goals.
I’ve had the pleasure of helping numerous product owners and product managers on many projects over the years, and these are some of my favorite evergreen methods. On large product updates I often apply all of these techniques along with user research. Whether you try them all or just one, you will enjoy the benefits of a better product experience and happier customers.
To learn more about any of these techniques and how they can help improve your day as a product manager, please contact us.