There are several possible reasons why we want to invest in a piece of work. I consider the following the main ones:
- Create Value for Users
- Improve speed and quality in our capability to produce value for Users
- Reduce costs
If there are multiple reasons, why is then Value to User in such a prominent position in the overview picture?
The reason is that the vast majority of product development teams need to significantly increase the focus on Users and what we do to produce value for them. If we put the User in the centre and always consider them first we will end up in a better place.
Why do I say User rather than Customer? They are not always the same in Business to Business settings. I believe that if Users find a lot of value in the product there is a good chance that Customers will understand this. The value for the Customer is based on the value to the Customers Users. So focus on Value to User first.
What is Value to User? Anything that makes the overall value of using the product higher than it was without it. It is not quite as simple as it sounds. When you add a lot of minor features that are used by few users, over time the product might be more complicated for the core features so the overall Value to Users have actually decreased over time. Watch out for this trap that many products have fallen into.
So how do we know what Users value? There are basically two ways:
- Qualitatively – we ask them
- Quantitatively – we measure their usage
These can often be combined to give the best understanding.
It is essential for an product development effort to have a good dialogue with people using your product.
If you are not talking to them on a regular basis, your product development will mostly be a guessing game. It is not enough that you are a user of the product yourself, you can’t possibly represent all types of users.
Get out of the building
– Steve Blank
The only way to truly understand your users is to get out of the building and talk to them. No forums, e-mails or analytics can replace this. No excuses – do this if you want to be successful. Yes, it can be uncomfortable in the beginning if you are not used to it or don’t know exactly how to do it.
Some key things you need to deeply understand from your users are. Questions are usually asked with some idea of a product or feature in mind, but keep the dialogue open so you can discover other opportunities as well.
The following approach can be used both at early stages in a start-up, but can also be useful (with some modifications) in a mature product as well (for considering incremental features).
Understand the problem
- Who are they and what is their context (for segmentation)?
- What are their jobs to be done (what are they trying to achieve)?
- What solutions are they using today?
- What are there most important problems in order of priority that you can help them solve?
- What are the consequences of the problems? Losing time? Losing money? Etc..
- How important are the consequences?
Validate the solution
- Do they understand the solution you are proposing (or co-creating with them)?
- How well does it help them solve their problems?
- What is the impact on the consequences of their problems? Will they save money? Will they save time? Etc…
- What is the minimum feature set they need to solve a problem that would make the product worth using?
Validate the business model
- What price are they willing to pay for your solution?
- Are they willing to use the business model you are proposing (for example subscription, lifetime license etc)
Can you build a sustainable business on this model? Notice that this is first question that is not for a User.
Besides talking to Users how do you really know that Users value the features you put in the product and that they keep valuing them over time?
If a feature is not used by many Users, the value is likely to be low. If this is the case you need to understand why it isn’t used. For example:
- Isn’t it solving an important need or a problem?
- Don’t they understand how to use it?
- Don’t they find it?
- Is it too expensive (if their is a cost related to it)?
Most of the time you need to talk to Users to understand why features are under performing. The measurements can lead you to the right conversations, but usually can’t provide you with the answers.
How do you measure? You find a tool that is suitable for your context. For example Google Analytics is very popular for web development – but there are more advanced solutions as well. For Android and IOS there are different options. If you can’t find a suitable existing solution you might need to create a custom solution. One way or another you should work hard to get measures, because without them success will be so much harder, since you will be flying partly blind. If you don’t know how Users are using your product, how can you create more value for them in the best way?
It is usually not enough to just use an Usage Analytics tool, in most scenarios you would also need to analyse the data on a much deeper level by using a Business Intelligence tool like for example Tableau or PowerBI. This tools helps you visualize and analyze data related to the usage of your product.