In this article, I'll be discussing how performing a product discovery as a tech partner can help your clients ship robust products.
If you've ever bought a house (which is becoming a pipe dream for many of us), you likely used an inspector. Presumably, by using this inspector, you were able to discover things like whether the foundation of the house was solid. Whether the house itself was structurally sound or if there were any signs of asbestos.
Using that inspector likely gave you a sense of what you were getting into before you made a 25-30 year commitment in the form of a mortgage. Think of discovery in the same way. Every person involved should have a clear understanding of the possible outcomes when embarking on a new product before committing a massive amount of time and money.
Now let's talk about the value of discovery by analyzing some case studies.
A couple of years ago, the UK's National Health Service (NHS) had to abandon a multibillion-pound project to develop a revolutionary patient record system. The main goal of the system was to improve patient care and help NHS staff manage patient information. But after many missed deadlines, poor project management and budget control and a lack of necessary functionality, the UK government made the decision to scrap the project. Branded "the biggest IT failure ever seen," the project ended up costing UK taxpayers approximately £10bn.
After ditching the project, the UK government realized the system was "neither necessary or appropriate" to achieve their original goals. Instead, they decided to allow individual hospitals to review their current operations and develop them as necessary.
Another case study would be a startup called Juicero. Bursting onto the tech scene in 2016, Juicero wanted to transform juicing. In the infamous Silicon Valley tradition of over-engineering solutions to non-problems, Juicero wanted to change juicing by way of a $400 juicier, individual juice packets and a mobile app. Sounds like overkill you say? And you would be right. In April 2017, Bloomberg News reported that customers could hand squeeze the juice packets quicker, albeit not as thorough as the juicer. This wasn't before Juicero was able to secure about $120 million in seed funding. Unfortunately for the founder Doug Evans who saw himself as the next Steve Jobs, the company had to suspend sales of its product after only 16 months.
What we can learn from these two cases studies is that by not performing a product discovery;
- You can miss out on the chance of identifying if the solution is the right solution for the problem.
- You can miss out on identifying if our product is viable and desirable.
In the case of the NHS, a product discovery might've shown the UK government that the effort they were about to put in was too ambitious. They might've realized the need to scale back and develop functionality in cycles.
With Juciero, a product discovery could have helped the company realize that the way to revolutionize juicing was not a $400 machine, with individual juice packets and a mobile app. It might have forced them to retire the idea altogether. But, they might have thought of something better suited to the problem and put the $120 million better use.
In fact, a product discovery can often prove that the solution you want may not be the best for your problem. You might have to go back to the proverbial drawing board, but you'll have more knowledge on how to conquer your challenge.
Let's look at how performing a product discovery can help out your clients.
A product discovery can pin-point the gaps between a product's service and the internal processes that support the service. This will give you greater insight into how to address those gaps.
A product discovery can help you learn how your end-users, whether they are customers or employees, use the product. It can map out the user experience of an existing product and answer questions like; Do users have difficulties completing specific tasks? Do they know the terminology used in the app? Does the navigation make sense to them? If you're creating a new product, a discovery can uncover the workarounds users have for the problem you want to solve.
Budget and Timeline
After going through product discovery, you'll understand what's required for a project. This will benefit you in creating realistic timelines and budgets. Thus reducing uncertainty for your clients and increase their confidence in your abilities.
Product discoveries can aid you in exploring the technical possibilities of a project. Helping you deal with questions such as; What kind of technology will I need to do this? Is this the right technology for the problem? As a tech partner, you can help stakeholders decide which side of the technology spectrum they need to be on. Should they go for an out-of-the-box solution? While not tailored for their specific needs, it might meet their budgetary goals. Or a custom solution, where you build a custom solution for their requirements, but at a higher cost? Or even somewhere in the middle, where the final solution might be a mix of custom and ready-made.
As discovery is a collaborative process, there must be ongoing discussions between the stakeholders and the tech team. These discussions allow you to identify and address things like; Are we using different terms to refer to the same things? What terms are the products using that aren't familiar to me and my team? Addressing these issues will create a shared understanding between everyone, improving transparency.
Once you've gone through the discovery process and interpreted the gathered information, you can work with stakeholders to rank insights and create a workable roadmap. A roadmap pushes stakeholders to be proactive about obstacles and less reactive.
In this age of competitive and innovative digital products, ensure you are creating the most value for your clients with product discovery. Product discoveries help us take a step back from aimlessly shipping products and instead allows us to assess the problem and the given requirements.
At RedBit, we offer product discoveries as a stand-alone service where we work with clients to determine the most appropriate direction for a product. Additionally, we also provide product discoveries as part of our All-In service, where we work with clients through the end-to-end product design process.