In my blog “The Practice of Product Management,” I talked about how the Practice of Product Management is in the application of a “method” with the ultimate test being “business performance.” While there are many aspects to a method for product management, I believe that one foundational method that we learned in grade school can be leveraged for Product Management – specifically, The Scientific Method.
A refresher for those of you who either don’t have kids who just learned this or just forgot the details. Scientific Method follows the following process:
To match this to a product management or strategic planning method, let me break it into Phases:
Phase 1 – Ask Questions and Do Background Research
Start with a Market Segment and a Buyer Persona who may have problems [this would be the Ask the Question] and some focused research [qualitative and primary research] to learn more about the suspected problem [Do Background Research].
Phase 2 – Construct Hypothesis and Test
From this Background Research develop specific hypotheses as to the market needs/problems for the Market Segment and Buyer Persona informed from the background research [Construct Hypothesis]. Then focus on validating the hypotheses [Test with an Experiment]. In this validation stage use quantitative research to gain statistically significant (hopefully) data that validates or invalidates the hypotheses.
Phase 3 – Analyze and Report
Through this research start building fact-based assumptions to size the market opportunity, understand the potential value for addressing the market opportunity and more [Analyze Results and Draw Conclusions], and based on the results determine if this is an opportunity that makes sense to pursue [Hypothesis is True, Partially True or False], and based on the results potentially try to learn more [Report Results and Think! Try Again] or put a plan in place to move forward to address the opportunity [Report Results].
Often product management can be done as based on gut feel or internal thinking with no market input or validation, but research shows that having a formal process in place is critical. 90.0% of the best performing business in delivering in the Idea to Launch process have formal processes in place, as opposed to 44.4% for the Worst Performers. While this is a large difference, the larger difference is in those that actually use the process with 60.0% of the Best Performers using (not just formalizing) their process and 18.5% of the Worst Performers.
So Instead of relying on assumptions, gut feel and groupthink for product management, why not get scientific? Get an idea about an opportunity and do qualitative research to better understand the opportunity. Based on that qualitative research and secondary research, build some opportunity hypotheses that you can then quantitatively validate in the market. Depending on those results, you can either put a plan in place to address the opportunity (hypotheses were true) or do some more research to better understand the opportunity or change your focus.
The best product management teams are systematic. Rather than using opinions, they start with a deep understanding of personas and problems, validating their hypotheses with both qualitative and quantitative research.