“For what one idea do you want your product to stand in the mind of your customer?” I heard Roger Cauvin ask that question at the most recent ProductCamp Austin [correction - he said it here - thanks Roger], and the quote has been jumping to the front of my mind almost daily ever since. Maybe by writing about it I can exorcise the demon and get back to using the idea instead of being haunted by it.
The One Idea
You’ve just been given a new assignment – your company needs a new software thingamajig so that you can play in the whatchamacallit space, and you’re going to drive product management for it. You’ve also been asked to deliver the first version in six weeks. Of course you’ll be able to do follow-on releases, after all, you are agile. That’s how “agile” works, isn’t it?
Cool. Exciting. Challenging.
You sit down with the folks who will be building the product, and find out that they have already spoken with several stakeholders. Excellent. You circle back with the stakeholders, and start to gather data about your market and audience.
Your schedule is aggressive, so you think about what is realistic to get done in a very small timebox. With the current schedule, you can’t afford to get caught in analysis paralysis, and you can’t realistically do in depth market analysis, persona development, hyper-accurate requirements prioritization, etc. You do, however, have time to do the most important thing – define the one idea that will define your product.
If you cannot come up with this idea, you need to push back on your management team, and delay the launch of your product until you have that one idea.
Don’t Abuse Agile
Agile is designed to help you rapidly create iteratively better products, with iterative development and continuous infusion of market feedback and data. Agile is not a process by which you start typing without any idea of what you intend, releasing it and then getting feedback in an iterative process. If that’s how you’re approaching agile, your process is broken.
[image from Market Driven Competitive Advantage]
Unless you’re very lucky, your first iteration will be a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t you rather be intentional than lucky? Make sure you have that one idea before you start developing.
You need to come up with a one idea that is aligned with and supports your corporate strategy. At a minimum, you have to make sure that you have an idea that is aligned with your stakeholder’s goals, based on the assumption that those goals are aligned with corporate strategy.
Your one idea really needs to make your users say “Wow!”
I was explaining the importance of this to a colleague (who is not a product manager), and his response was “Oh, you mean the hook.”
I was reminded that you not only have to provide a wow experience for your users, but you have to present a hook that will capture the imagination of your buyers. Remember that buyer personas make decisions based on their perceptions of user problems [more on convincing buyers].
Remember that you don’t want to try and do everything perfectly in the first release – you want to satisfice. You may only be able to target a single persona with a solution to a single problem. You just need to make sure you are solving the right problem – which is where Kano analysis is very handy for identifying the Minimum Market Acceptance criteria.
[From Minimum Market Acceptance]
Conclusion: A Balancing Act
Defining the one idea for your product is a balancing act.
- You have to align the one idea with your corporate strategy and stakeholder goals
- You have to solve a valuable problem for your users, presented in a way that captivates your buyers
- You have to create a product that is compelling right away – good enough in execution to enter your market
- And you have to get the first release out in six weeks!
Good luck! Or better yet – Good Intent!