Means to an End
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?
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.
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 its business goals. A product typically generates revenue directly like Microsoft Office, indirectly by helping sell other products and services, think of the Amazon website and mobile app, or by saving cost, for example by automating business processes–many in-house built digital products fall in this category.
Additionally, Consider the business model required in order to meet the business goals. This includes identifying the revenue streams, the sales channels, and the cost structure. 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.
The Extended Product Vision Board
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 extended version of the board shown below 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.