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How much Product Discovery is Necessary?

Published on 26th April 2010

Product discovery, exploring the value proposition, market, differentiators, business goals, and business model of a new or updated product, is crucial to achieve success. But getting the product out as quickly as possible is often equally important. In this post, I explore the question how much product discovery is required and how to best balance the necessary discovery work with reducing time to market.

How much product discovery work is necessary? While I find it impossible to give a general, precise, and accurate answer, there is one factor that has a big influence on the time and effort necessary to create a valid product strategy: the product’s lifecycle stage.

The younger a product is, the more discovery work it requires. A new product development effort may spend several weeks carrying out necessary prep work such as creating an initial product strategy and iteratively testing and correcting it. Contrast this with incremental enhancements of a mature product that may require little or no discovery work, as the following picture shows.


Product discovery effort and product life cyclePlease note that the line representing the discovery effort is in the picture above is only a rough approximation. In reality, the discovery effort may be higher or lower, and it may fall later or sooner.

The picture also assumes that the product moves from growth into maturity and decline, when it is eventually retired. Be aware, though, that when you extend the life cycle of your product, for example, by creating a variant for a new market (segment), unbundling one or more features, or changing the business model, you will have to carry out a significant amount of discovery and strategising work, as the picture below illustrates.

Product discovery effort and product life cycle with extension

When determining the discovery effort, don’t make the mistake of skipping or shortcutting the necessary work. Don’t start the actual development work without a valid product strategy in place, without having nailed the value proposition, market, differentiators, and business goals of the new or changed product. Consider showing the necessary discovery work on your product roadmap, particularly when you make bigger changes to an existing product.

At the same token, avoid overdoing the discovery work. There is no way to guarantee that the product strategy is correct, that the new product or next version will be a success. Your goal should therefore be to get a good enough product out as fast as possible, and then adapt it to the market feedback.

[This post was updated on 6 October 2017.]

Post a Comment or Ask a Question


  • andy murthar says:


    i have attended a few lectures/classes with you at scrum gatherings.
    visioning has been touched on but only lightly.
    i have been a scrummaster since 2005 and now have experience across a few indutries and projects.
    Howver, as a scrummaster/coach i am often contracted after the product has been designed/visioned/solution designed etc. And then handed a loose backlog to work with.
    In most cases the backlog has ended up wanting.
    as issues arise , the general “chat” within the culture/environment is ” i knew we shouldn’t have done scrum”.
    aside from many other impediments involved, i have come to the conclusion that agile visioning is extremely important, but nobody seems to do it, know how to do it, feel secure with the idea etc
    i have an idea of how it should be done and have been lucky enough to have tried the methods on one contract.
    so cutting to the question 🙂 do you run comprehensive open source workshops specifically on product visioning for a complex product?
    if not do you know who does?
    the facilitation amd materials for such a workshop are highly important if , as agilists , we are to get buy-in and help all stakeholder feel secure in such a situation

    all help appreciated



    • Roman Pichler Roman Pichler says:

      Hi Andy, Thanks for sharing your experiences. I offer a workshop that teaches visioning practices:

      Does this sound helpful?

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