Getting lost in the product details and struggling to decide if a feature should be implemented is a common challenge for product owners and product managers. It’s something that happens to me all the time, even while I was writing this post. But as product owners, we should focus on what really counts: creating value for the people using the product and the organisation developing it.
Some product owners I work with worry too much about how to write a certain user story or what the detailed design of a screen should look like. Whenever this happens, I find it helpful to step back and ask the following questions: Why would anybody want to use the functionality? Why would a certain design be helpful?
I know the image above looks pretty trivial. But it took me a few iterations to create it. I started out with a more elaborate design, which I dropped after I reflected on the desired user benefit: Glancing at the images should allow the reader to understand the gist of the blog post. Selecting a simpler design hopefully achieves this goal better.
Exploring how a story or design idea benefits the users means viewing the product as a means to an end: to serve the users as well as the organisation creating it. As marketing guru Theodore Levitt famously put it, “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” What really matters are the benefits the product provides.
I find that personas and scenarios are great to hypothesize about the users and their needs. A persona allows us to capture assumptions and ideas about what a typical user might be. The scenarios describe the user’s problem, how our product should benefit the user together with the desired user experience.
While serving the user should be the primary purpose of your product, you shouldn’t forget about the value the product has to create for your organisation. To do so, reflect on the business model that will help you achieve your business goals. This includes identifying the revenue streams, the sales channels, and the cost structure. A great tool to analyse and improve your business model is the Business Model Canvas created by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.
Be aware that your business model can have an impact on the product functionality: For instance, if you plan to generate revenue through online ads, then this requires the capability to place ads. As a consequence, an ad epic will appear in your product backlog.
To capture your ideas about user needs, the product, and the value created for the company, you may want to try my Product Vision Board. The board captures assumptions about the target group, the user needs, the top three features, and the key business model elements.
If you find it difficult to balance meeting the user needs and creating value for your organisation, then focus on the user. If your product is desirable, you are likely to find a way to make money. Users should come first, money second.
Next time when you get stuck in the product details, zoom out. Ask yourself how a feature adds value for the users and your organisation. Then implement it, gather the relevant data, and check if the benefit has been realised. Happy developing!