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User experiences and outcomes for a better product design

Product managers begin a product design journey with the usual suspects like a market need and a set of features. And once product management has a well laid out list of product features backed by that all awesome architecture and tech stack, it ends up in defense of what was painstakingly created, almost through it’s entire life cycle.

While this may have worked in a period of restricted access and fewer options, the approach to product design definitely needs a re look in an age of increasing options and decreasing attention span. Once a use case opportunity is identified, it is probably a good time to sit down offline and work with the final set of user experiences across each role that a product intends to invite a user to, and then a list of outcomes that match those experiences.  Together they may provide a better user activation probability and therefore a more predictable product ROI for sponsors.

Here’s a simple to do guide to get started:

1. List the user roles.  Typically, a new age digital system has 3 broad categories.  The engaged, The people who manage the engagement, and the sponsors who expect a certain outcome.

2.  Ask what each user would expect as an experience from the product. Experiences are typically identified as motivators for a user role to keep coming back to the product as it would have a clear benefit or reward for participation and adoption. A good exercise would reveal the trade offs, benefits, rewards and exceptions.

3. Outcomes are about how the users find a quantifiable experience at the end of a participation cycle or a usage session.  These outcomes can be listed for each individual session, or a collective set of sessions leading to a more aggregated outcome.

4. Refine the outcomes list by verifying them against role motives that have the risk of blocking participation and collaborative engagement. Interviewing similar user roles in their current contexts can provide great insights.

5. Prepare a final list of experiences and outcomes that the product can deliver in it’s most sophisticated avatar. Work backwards to a product road map that delivers the intent and the promise in it’s initial release, more than the features that would follow.

The approach looks deceivingly simple, but as you may realize, requires a highly participative and iterative approach before you set yourself on the way to create a great product. Try this out the next time you have that idea and see what shows up on your paper, or a whiteboard, or even your wall if no one’s complaining….

Posted by Mahendra Penumathsa on Aug 26
A 4 point checklist for digital product development

The risks of next generation digital product development are widely distributed across a variety of factors impacting it. Investors and entrepreneurs are faced with a wide range of choices and questions, requiring them to navigate a digital maze of opportunities and risks. How does one distribute limited budgets? Captive vs outsourced development? or is there a hybrid? When do we launch? How do we validate assumptions? How do we support and ensure business continuity?

While the solutions and risk management approaches can vary contextually, there is a ready reckon er that can definitely guide start ups and wannabes with some pointers. Here’s a list of 4 important things to consider during those intense moments of strategy making.

1. Cost Management Vs. Cost Reduction

Good things come at a cost, but costs don’t always have to be incurred upfront. Working on a product road map is crucial to plan phase wise deployments that match your go to market and customer acquisition strategies. An initial phase that focuses on simplicity and a carefully selected set of features that express the value proposition definitively can help you manage costs in your initial phases. Most digital product development initiatives fall into the trap of doing too much too early. And this leaves very little or nothing when it really comes to adjusting to market realities later.

2. Captive development vs. outsourcing

This is one tricky subject of prolonged strategy sessions. By default, Investors are comfortable with the idea of owning development environments and core talent and often consider it to be essential in retaining intellectual property of what is being created. It is however, expensive and time consuming to go all captive prior to the idea generating real cash. In larger sized initiatives, a reasonable approach could be a hybrid strategy that combines investing in core skills to be captive while leveraging a modeled outsourcing strategy that allows the partner to transfer supportive talent at pre-determined milestones or intervals. In smaller and mid-sized initiatives, an outsourced product development mandate is not a bad idea where the output can include well documented deliveries to support future captive development and enhancements.

3. Launching early and launching quick

No digital product goes to the market successfully without a feedback phase that is often done with a familiar set of known users or a controlled group of usability testers. Agile based deliveries can definitely optimize your release strategy to include quick releases of working assets to small groups of users to validate assumptions and gain early insights on use case, usability and experience. Saving time during the beta phases can be crucial for aligning with your marketing spends and avoid frustrating delays to hit the ground running.

4. Business continuity

Setting up the support mandate, even if for a beta phase, is crucial to ensure business continuity of a digital idea. The support process itself has it’s period of settling down. Testing it in a small way during the beta phase can lay the ground for a well rehearsed digital business continuity plan. Technology, Infrastructure, User Training and User Support, are the 4 pillars of a comprehensive support mandate and should deserve equal attention as building the asset.

In summary, the road to digital asset development is a journey fraught with unknowns and surprises. However, like in a traditional business, there are experiences that could be leveraged to make it a little more predictable and less risky. Roll that dice and improve the odds in your favour.

Posted by Mahendra Penumathsa on Jul 06