Original article published here
As a business aiming to launch a new product or deliver an enhancement, you want to learn quick and fail fast without wasting time, money or effort. In order to know where to invest the most effort, it’s crucial to understand the elements most important to the success of your product and ultimately your business. Where a software product is concerned, this fundamental understanding translates to the successful delivery of software.
To understand the most important elements of your product and shape your strategy on that basis, you need to ask yourself some very important questions.
Good questions are the root to shaping and executing on strategy.
We have all experienced how hard it can be to make decisions when there is not a clear business vision, mission, or strategy. This fatal flaw makes it very difficult for the organisation to execute on a game plan and measure whether or not they are working on the most important things.
It happens at newly founded startups as well as large organisations. It can often create a divorce in strategy, for example the product vision and strategy does not align to the businesses causing a discrepancy between expectations from leadership and products shipped to customers. Or worse, decisions are made on gut feelings and instincts rather than market data, customer feedback and the businesses vision, mission and strategy which should serve as strategic guiding principles. How do you make tough trade-off decisions?
At the end of this article I share a Product Challenge related to Whatsapp that I posted to Slideshare which shares the importance of asking the right questions. Below are a few strategic questions we should all be asking and obtaining answers for in our companies:
- What is the one thing under the hood we are f****** up most at e.g. tech, marketing, sales etc?
- What is the smallest, quickest thing we can do to validate our assumptions?
- How do we prioritise what we should work on next and why?
- What is the smallest possible thing we can do to deliver business value?
- What is the riskiest thing that keeps you up at night that we need to address?
- What are the unit economics of our business e.g. Customer Acquisition Costs in comparison to Customer Lifetime Value?
- How much profit are we making per unit sold?
- What is our current situation? What is the impact if we do nothing? what levers can we pull if we do something?
- Who is our primary competition?
- How will we beat our primary competition e.g. on price, quality, service?
- What is our biggest product risk?
- What needs does our product/service solve for customers?
- Who were our initial set of customers?
- How can we identify who our core users are?
- Who are our most important cohort of users (core users)?
- How can we attract and retain more core users?
- Are we making decisions based on what leadership wants or from engaging customers early and often (customer needs)?
- What unmet customer needs do our core users have?
- What are customers feeling, thinking and doing?
- How expensive would it be if we did NOT solve this problem (cost of delay)?
- What is the number 1 value a customer gets out of using our product?
- Why are customers leaving us?
- Are we addressing our leaky bucket (retention) problem before acquiring more users?
- What is our most effective channel for acquiring customers (core users)?
These questions can be turned into Hypothesis for testing by using the following 4 step framework:
- We believe that [ by doing this] for [these people]
- We will achieve [this outcome]
- We will know this is true when we see [this measurable metric]
- As a result [this is what we will build OR test next]
By no means are these easy questions, in fact they are very tough questions. However as I have grown in confidence over the years as a product manager I have experienced first hand the pitfalls and dangers of not having alignment to the questions above and the impact it has on business performance.
I urge you to challenge yourself to seek answers and alignment on the business and customer questions above at least every 6 months.
We all need help from time to time, sometimes from an external voice who can help be impartial and get answers for these questions. If that sounds like you, feel free to get in contact on email@example.com
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