Navigating the Product Discovery Process

Navigating the Product Discovery Process

Uncovering Customer Needs and Mitigating Risks

Jul 22, 2023·

5 min read

Product Discovery, typically begins with identifying the people who use or consume your product and understanding their needs and problems.

During this stage, the goal is to ensure that the right thing is built, meaning to define what will be developed. On the other hand, Product Delivery, or "Entrega de Produto" (Product Delivery), focuses on delivering the solution that needs to be built. Teresa Torres defines the terms as follows:

Definition of discovery and delivery. Discovery focuses on defining what will be developed, and Delivery aims to develop and make the product available to users.

Source: Adaptation from Teresa Torres

At the end of a discovery process, the team will incorporate the decision into the delivery track so that a solution can be developed and made available for consumers to use and provide feedback. When the team delivers a solution and achieves the desired outcome, they can analyze data and customer feedback to identify different problems to solve. If the result is not as expected, they can improve the solution or choose another way to address the identified issues.

Importance of Product Discovery: Product Discovery helps reduce uncertainty and waste by investing in something that doesn't meet consumer needs. Marty Cagan identifies four major risks in product management and how to enable a discovery process:

  • Value risk: Does the solution meet the needs or pains of the users?

  • Usability risk: Will users easily use the product?

  • Feasibility risk: Can we build what we need with the time, skills, and technology we have?

  • Business viability risk: Does this solution also work for other aspects of our business?

In situations where there is a lot of uncertainty and limited information, the risk of creating and releasing a product to users is very high. In such cases, jumping straight into coding without properly addressing the context and risks can be a waste of time and resources, leading to dissatisfied consumers. Therefore, the Discovery process is beneficial to reduce uncertainties and mitigate risks.

Research and Validation Techniques: During the discovery process, it is possible to conduct research and validation with users. The research aims to better understand a concept, expectations, and how users perceive certain topics. Sometimes, research can invalidate an idea to pursue further, while in other situations, it can assist in the product validation process.

For example, launching a Fakedoor for a cashback feature can help understand how many people are interested, but conducting a survey can reveal their motivations, the problems the product can solve, or the opportunities it can create. The results of the Fakedoor experiment, combined with user research, can support more informed decision

The graph below presents various techniques that can be used for research or experiments. To decide on the best technique to use, it is essential to first define the objective of the study or validation at hand. In the matrix, you can see the techniques and the dimensions each of them can impact:

Interpreting the Graph:

  1. Legend: Understanding the meaning and difference between the labels.

  2. Diagonal Axis: Attitudinal vs. Behavioral

  • Attitudinal: What people say In the attitudinal dimension, the focus is on understanding people's declared beliefs; the input is limited to what people are aware of and willing to share.

  • Behavioral: What people do In the behavioral dimension, the exploration revolves around how people react to certain stimuli. Sometimes, there is a facilitator in the process, a script to be followed, or users simply use the product naturally without intermediaries or material to guide them.

  1. Horizontal Axes: Qualitative vs. Quantitative In this axis, the execution and analysis of results differ.
  • Qualitative: The main objective is to gain a broad understanding of the consumer's decision-making reasons and motivations. Typically, the research process begins with qualitative research. Sample size: a small number of respondents.

  • Quantitative: The main goal is to quantify the data and generalize the results from a sample to an entire target group. Sample size: a large number of respondents. The size of the samples depends on the chosen technique and whether it will have a qualitative or quantitative approach.

Deliverables of Product Discovery: Product discovery must focus on actionable insights, meaning they generate input for the team to advance and decide how to develop the product and conduct experiments. Rather than focusing on using various tools during the Discovery process, concentrate on the objectives and how to generate learnings.

Note: No Discovery process solves all problems. Not even the best process can eliminate all risks because it's only when the product is made available to users that we can see how it functions, and unexpected behaviors and feedback may arise.

In summary, remember that the Discovery process usually starts when there are uncertainties and risks associated with product development. There is a lack of information, evidence, and a solid plan for what needs to be built.

Keep in mind that the goal of this stage is to collect strong evidence that helps decide whether it is worth investing in building a new solution or new implementations. To decide which techniques to use or how to conduct experiments, reflect first on the business objectives and the questions that need to be answered.

Tips for Executing a Discovery Process:

  1. Involve the team: It may not always be possible or worthwhile to involve all specialists (Engineers, Designers, Data Analysts, etc.), but identify opportunities for them to participate when possible.

  2. Adapt the process: There is no one-size-fits-all recipe or framework for your specific company, team, and product. Don't compare your process to others'. Seek inspiration, study, and adapt to make the process work best for your reality.

  3. Prioritize according to your reality: Understand the limitations of your environment, such as resources, budget, and time. This can help make more assertive decisions about how to conduct the Discovery process.

  4. Define a period or deadline: The Discovery process cannot be eternal. Discuss with key stakeholders what they expect to learn and discover, set a timeframe, and make it happen. Throughout this time, monitor the process and make adjustments as necessary.

There are various ways to conduct a Discovery process, which can vary according to the company, professionals involved, and the product in question. How has the Discovery process been in your day-to-day?