Product Discovery Process: The Ultimate Guide
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The absence of the product discovery process falls into one of the five main reasons products fail. According to CB insights, in 35% of cases, poor market, product, development, and customer research resulted in product failure.
The successful product is the one solving a deep and genuine need for the customer that they feel the need to use from the first try. So, how do achieve the goal to build such a product? Product discovery phase is here to help!
In this article, we’ve gathered all the product discovery techniques that’ll help you through a successful product discovery process and build a great software product. Our guide is based on Softermii’s more than seven years of experience in helping companies develop prosperous products.
What is Product Discovery?
The product discovery or planning stage is the very first phase of the development process. The whole process of product discovery aims to point out the product's market fit, analyze industry demands, evaluate budgeting, and other available resources. It is intended to identify the main problems and risks that may arise when developing and launching a product on the market.
The product's discovery phase also helps the team draw up a step-by-step development plan and vision of the final product. Well-thought planning ensures cost optimization, thorough user research, accurate process, and other benefits. That's why you can't skip planning, as you might omit some essential points that will later fail the entire product.
Product Discovery Process Preparations
Product discovery is a critical process that helps businesses identify, evaluate, and prioritize potential new products or features. By making adequate preparations, you can maximize the chances of success in this endeavor. Here are the essential steps to take before embarking on a product discovery journey.
Assemble a cross-functional team
A diverse, multidisciplinary team is vital for generating ideas and insights from different perspectives. Include members with various skills and expertise in product management, engineering, design, marketing, and customer support. It will facilitate collaboration, foster innovation, and ensure all relevant aspects are considered.
Set clear goals and objectives
Establish a clear and measurable purpose for your product discovery process. Define the problems you want to solve, the target audience you intend to serve, and the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help you track progress. Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals provides a solid foundation for decision-making and prioritization.
Conduct market and user research
Gather insights into the current market landscape and user needs. Analyze competitors, identify market trends, and evaluate customer feedback to understand the gaps your product could fill. Conduct interviews, surveys, and usability tests to gain an in-depth understanding of your target audience's pain points, preferences, and expectations.
Establish a prioritization framework
Develop a consistent method for evaluating and ranking potential product ideas. It will enable your team to make informed decisions and ensure that the most valuable and feasible ideas are pursued. Consider using prioritization techniques such as the RICE model (Reach, Impact, Confidence, and Effort), MoSCoW (Must-have, Should-have, Could-have, and Won't-have), or Value vs. Effort matrices.
Create a product vision and strategy
Define the overarching vision for your product, outlining its purpose, value proposition, and unique selling points. Align this vision with your organization's strategic objectives and market opportunities. Create a high-level roadmap that outlines the key stages of your product's development and sets the direction for your team.
Establish a collaborative environment
Encourage open communication, knowledge sharing, and constructive feedback within your team. Leverage collaboration tools and methodologies, such as Agile or Lean, to foster a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability. It will help your team stay aligned, iterate quickly, and respond effectively to any changes or challenges during the discovery process.
Allocate resources and set a timeline
Determine the necessary resources, such as personnel, budget, and tools, required to carry out the product discovery process effectively. Establish a realistic timeline for completing each stage of the process, considering potential constraints and dependencies.
By making these preparations, you can set the stage for a successful product discovery process. With a well-rounded team, clear goals, and a solid strategy, you will be better positioned to identify and prioritize the most promising opportunities for your organization.
Product Discovery Team.
One of the most important parts of the discovery phase is choosing the right team. It’ll be their task to start the project and define the step-by-step development process. The team involved in this phase should consist, at minimum, of the following:
This person has an outsized role in the process and is responsible for conducting market research, analyzing it, and synthesizing it into actionable plans for the teams involved at later stages.
The PM's role is to organize the whole team's work process, supervise deliverables, and keep track of deadlines.
Tech Lead / Architect
Their job is to choose the tech stack used during the product development and its architecture, including all APIs, SDKs, and non-proprietary code in the solution. They must also decide what timeline is most appropriate for the given project and determine a budget for the scope of work defined by the BA.
The task of the quality assurance specialist is to establish, monitor, and improve processes, standards, and procedures. QA defines possible risks that can occur throughout the whole development process providing mitigation strategy early on, thus eliminating emerging problems at an early stage.
Read also: Detailed Description of a Software QA Process
During the discovery stage, the designer is tasked with creating the UI/UX wireframes for the software, which will be the backbone of the look and feel of the application under development.
Product Discovery Methods
Embarking on a journey to uncover product discovery methods allows businesses to grasp the diverse techniques crucial for unearthing insights and opportunities. We can enhance our ability to pinpoint and prioritize potential product ideas or improvements by investigating these approaches.
Collecting input from existing or potential customers helps identify their pain points, preferences, and expectations. It can be done through surveys, social media, or user reviews to gain insights into areas for improvement or new feature development.
One-on-one conversations with users provide valuable qualitative data about their experiences, motivations, and challenges. This method allows for an in-depth understanding of user needs, enabling the development of tailored product solutions.
Analyzing user behavior and engagement metrics, such as retention rates, conversion rates, and usage patterns, reveals how users interact with a product. These insights can help identify opportunities to optimize or enhance the product based on real-world data.
Assessing competitors' strengths and weaknesses, as well as their product offerings and features, helps identify gaps in the market and potential areas for differentiation. This method can also uncover emerging trends and best practices to inform product strategy.
Developing business models and value propositions for new products or features helps evaluate their feasibility and potential impact on the market. This method involves assessing the revenue potential, target audience, and resources required to bring the product to life.
Engaging with internal stakeholders, such as employees or subject matter experts, can uncover unique insights and ideas. This method leverages an organization's collective knowledge and expertise to identify potential product opportunities or improvements.
The Key 6 Steps of the Product Discovery Process
Let's dive and find out what are the product discovery steps. As you know, well-thought product planning ensures cost optimization, thorough user research, and other benefits. But all these advantages are leveled if you approach the product discovery process incorrectly.
Step 1: Creating Alignment
The very first stage is when the Product Manager needs to step in. It's his role to define the team needs and the project development timeline. It's crucial to distinguish the corporate aims and the real-life problems of your audience, which your product will solve.
Step 2: Researching User Problems
When the team for product development is set, the research stage starts. This step aims to uncover as many problems your user faces as possible and find ways your product can solve them.
There are different product discovery techniques at this point. However, behavioral, qualitative, quantitative, and attitudinal research is usually used. Combine them in a way that suits your product discovery aims the most.
Step 3: Requirements Design
The main goals of this step is to investigate possible problems and “as is” processes, to create business case specifications, elicit, document and confirm requirements and “to be” processes, make gap analysis and sketches. We in Softermii also research accelerators and potential third party engagements to help raise funding and find the perfect niche for the product.
Step 4: Technical Design
Once the design requirements are all well defined, it’s time for a technical design step. Here the team should investigate compliance and regulations aligning requirements accordingly. Then define product hypotheses, and plan to configure or disprove them, specify BRD MVP, create concept UI design of key pages and prototype. After that the team defines logical and infrastructure architecture, provides tech stack description and prepares tech risk and mitigation strategy.
Step 5: Implementation
On this stage, we compose the whole roadmap and timeline of the project, set up Jira and Confluence, approve communication plan and schedule, provide budget, timeline, and scope control, and create a pitch deck for potential investors.
Step 6: Handover
It's the final step to gather everything done throughout the discovery phase, put it together into the new product and hand it over to the client or pass it on to the development team.
Product Discovery Frameworks
There are various product discovery frameworks to streamline the process and ensure the product's success. Here are the most useful and popular:
Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to problem-solving that emphasizes empathy, experimentation, and iteration. It consists of five stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Design Thinking encourages teams to understand users' needs, develop creative solutions, and continuously refine their ideas through testing and feedback.
The Lean Startup methodology is based on building a minimum viable product (MVP), a simplified version of the product with just enough features to satisfy early adopters. This approach allows teams to test their assumptions, gather feedback, and iterate quickly. The core principles of Lean Startup are Build-Measure-Learn cycles and the concept of validated learning.
Jobs to be Done (JTBD)
JTBD is a framework that focuses on understanding the fundamental problems customers face and the "jobs" they need to accomplish. By identifying these jobs, teams can develop solutions that address users' needs more effectively. This framework involves interviewing customers, analyzing their motivations and desired outcomes, and prioritizing features that directly address the identified jobs.
Dual-track Agile is a product discovery framework that combines the benefits of Agile development with a structured approach to discovery. It involves running two parallel tracks: the discovery track, where teams conduct research and validate ideas, and the delivery, where validated ideas are developed into working software. This approach ensures continuous learning and iteration while maintaining the rapid pace of Agile development.
Opportunity Solution Tree
The Opportunity Solution Tree is a visual framework that helps teams identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement. By mapping out user needs, pain points, and potential solutions, teams can systematically explore and evaluate various options. This framework promotes a structured approach to product discovery, ensuring that teams consider multiple possibilities before committing to a particular solution.
Product discovery frameworks are essential for teams looking to create successful products that meet users' needs and deliver value. By employing these frameworks, teams can streamline the discovery process, foster a culture of innovation, and ensure that their products are grounded in a deep understanding of their customers.
Software Product Discovery in Remote Teams
You definitely know these buzzwords: communication, organization, tracking, tools, and using Jira and Trello to structure the process. However, in the current 'remote-working' reality, you need a more data-intensive monitoring system to track staff performance. We've decided to share our experience arranging the workflow and product discovery tools so that everyone participating in the process is satisfied and happy with the results.
Synchronize the Alignment
You must make sure that everyone on the team involved in the discovery process is on the same page. That's why it's better to invest time into synchronous meetings with the team members and stakeholders to walk everyone through your narrative and discuss it.
Conduct Facilitation Sessions
In the ideal world, all the discussions are made in the same room. However, when the whole world is stuck in remote working conditions and parts of the team are scattered worldwide, you can still find a way to organize sessions with the same dedication and mood. Video conferencing platforms and applications are here to help! Organize the space and tools for everyone to use simultaneously so that it'll be seamless to share, right down, and fixate different thoughts and ideas.
Keep Everything Organized
When your team is working on the same product from different places, there might arise the risk of having your user insights, experiment results, and ideas scattered across numerous tools and file servers. That's why we recommend using the same tools and platforms from the start.
Miro offers the Product Discovery template to link or embed all related documents. It allows to embed entire prototypes, .pdf presentations, and video recordings from user interviews, run the ideation sessions from there, and maintain continuous Impact Maps to tie everything together. This method of product discovery will come in handy when the time comes to create the final product.
Allow Everyone Involved Access and Editing
Suppose you want every team member to be as involved in the software product discovery process as possible. In that case, you should allow everyone to edit, add and use all the documentation created throughout all the stages.
Also, ensure everyone adds all the insights and ideas that emerged during the meetings to the shared board, where the team gathers discovery phase documentation.
Validate Your Idea with Softermii!
It’s obvious that if you want to develop a successful product, the discovery phase of a software development project cannot be skipped or rushed. It involves deep thought from multiple highly specialized professionals using the latest technologies in product discovery frameworks and tools. 9 out of 10 startups fail because of skipping the discovery phase and lack of external audits. But we in Softermii can help – we have a special Discovery Pack, where an experienced team of two developers, one quality assurance specialist, two business analysts, two designers and one project manager dedicate more than four weeks to your project, helping collect the necessary data and deliverables to find out if your project fits market and users’ needs for the price of $12 000.
Even if your project has already had funding, you will need to stay budget-conscious when delving into a new venture, at least until you've found product/market fit and get some revenue. At the same time, later success will directly result from the quality of the work done from the start.
The good news is that Softermii has lots of experience creating software from the ground up, including helping our clients through the discovery phase of a software project based on more than seven years of developing successful products of different complexity for multiple industries. We, at Softermii, strive to arrange our workflow so that all customers are satisfied with our services.
- Our savvy developers and designers monitor the industry to use proven tools and cutting-edge methods.
- We rely on our business analytics monitoring the market and up-to-date trends to keep up with the times.
- Our team is constantly searching for new effective approaches, tools, and methodologies, pumping up our broad experience.
Do not hesitate and hire an experienced development team who can effectively manage the software product discovery phase with a proven background! Fill in the Contact us form, and we'll get back to you to discuss all the details.
Frequently Asked Questions
The product discovery phase of a software project aims to hear business needs, formulate requirements, understand users and the context of usage, research competitors and trends, to map customer journey, identify tasks, roles, permissions, rules and restrictions, and create MVP backlog. In other words, everything the project needs from the start to be successful. The size of the project doesn’t matter, as discovery phase deliverables help mitigate risks and collect user feedback from the very beginning.
It is one of the main goals of the project’s discovery stage. It helps to validate the idea, optimize costs, develop a marketing strategy, create a prototype, set the project’s full scope, define success indicators and bottlenecks, and appoint stakeholders, thus mitigating risks and collecting users’ feedback preparing the business for the next phases of software product development.
The discovery team doesn’t necessarily need to be big, however, it should definitely include top-notch professionals and skilled specialists with hands-on experience in the required industry. Our typical discovery team consists of two developers (usually team leads or architects), one quality assurance specialist, two business analysts, two designers and one project manager.
Discovery phase deliverables can be divided into three main parts – UX/UI, BA and Development/PM deliverables. UX/UI artifacts contain competitors' analysis, choosing the available guideline to follow, navigation concept, site map, content structure, design sketches in Figma, concept design of key pages, dynamic prototype in Figma.
BA deliverables are MM, initial solution vision, target audience and user role descriptions, problem definition and processes as is, business cases definition, prioritization and scope definition for prototype, drafted BRD with solution introduction and business justification, list of accelerators, solution description, investigate compliance, regulations and align requirements according to it in updated BRD, define product hypotheses and plan to configure or disprove them, hypotheses validation, requirement specification including MVP in final BRD, solution’s conceptual roadmap creation.
Architect/Development and PM artifacts are as follows – architecturally significant requirements list, logical architecture, infrastructure architecture and cost estimation, tech stack description, tech risks and mitigation strategy, gantt chart, tools for team communication and knowledge base, communication schedule, status reports.
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