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Glossary » Product Discovery

Product Discovery

What is Product Discovery?

Product discovery is the process by which a company conducts significant research into its customer base in order to identify their requirements through the challenges that they face, and then develop a product or product portfolio that alleviates those challenges and meets requirements.

Product discovery is an essential step within the product design process. If a company cannot approve or disprove the assumptions about their customers, then they may waste time, money, and resources developing products that are not needed.

Synonyms

  • product development
  • product discovery process

The Value of Product Discovery

The product discovery process provides value to everybody involved:

  • The company: by conducting effective product discovery, the company doesn’t waste valuable resources building products and solutions that nobody needs
  • The customer: successful product discovery means delivering a product to a customer that is highly needed and sought after, and may become of critical importance
  • The product team: the product discovery process helps to ensure that product teams are on the right track in terms of prioritizing and building a product that will be successful, which in turn builds moral within the team as they already know that the product is a good fit for their customers

The Product Discovery Process

Process overview

To conduct product discovery effectively and successfully, businesses need to focus on two key areas – exploration, and validation.

Exploration

The exploration phase – which is also the first part of the product discovery process – encompasses in-depth research. This involves everything from having conversations with all stakeholders that are involved, salespeople and customers, to identifying the challenges that potential customers are facing and the solution to those challenges. In a nutshell, it’s all the research, ideation, and evaluation that’s required to develop a solid business case for a product.

Validation

The second part of the product discovery process is validation, which is where all the research and ideation that was undertaken in the previous stage, is validated. Each assumption that a company came to in the exploration stage is now either approved or rejected. Before a product is designed and developed, it needs to undergo certain tests to ensure that it can deliver real value for its users. This is achieved by creating prototypes and conducting testing using customer data and feedback. 

Common Mistakes 

To facilitate a successful product discovery process, businesses and their product teams need to be aware of the common mistakes that companies often fall foul to, so that they can avoid them.

Below are some common pitfalls and how companies and product teams can avoid them.

#1 Giving up

Product discovery is hard. Sometimes, a team may spend weeks, months, or even years conducting the research required to identify a gap in the market and the potential solution that could plug that gap. One of the worst things that a product team can do is give up when the going gets rough, or when discovery disrupts other tasks. 

To keep discovery front of mind, product teams need to regularly engage with their customers and discover if and what they are lacking. Regular engagement from this perspective helps to ensure that discovery isn’t just dropped due to overwhelmed teams or other duties taking up time. 

#2 Involving too many people

The decision-making process – especially in the B2B space – is already a long one so, if a company involves too many people in the product discovery phase, the buyer journey often gets even longer. However, companies also need to ensure that enough people are part of the process to ensure a well-rounded product discovery process that isn’t biased. 

At the very least, the product manager, designer, and engineer should be involved from the very start. From there, product researchers and marketers can be added as and when required and brought up to speed to ensure the overall process isn’t slowed down.   

#3 Not aligning discovery with delivery 

While it’s the product team’s job to develop new products and solutions to meet market demand and alleviate customer pain points, it’s only half of the activities involved in the job. Those products now need delivering and marketing to the customer to secure sales. If the same people aren’t doing both aspects, then it’s unrealistic to expect the product delivery team to know exactly what the product discovery team’s intent was if they weren’t in the room when the product was discovered. 

Every product team should be responsible for both the discovery and delivery aspects. By aligning these two parts, the people who conducted the initial innovation, also deliver the product.

#4 Lack of discovery 

While exploration is the first phase of product discovery, it’s not the only phase. Companies can fail to validate the assumptions they make in the exploration phase. By doing so, they can end up with a product that isn’t a solution to anything, i.e. doesn’t alleviate a pain point, isn’t marketable, doesn’t plug a gap in the current market, or something that is perhaps the same as something else on the market that might even be better or cheaper.

To avoid this, companies need to remember that while they believe they have a groundbreaking product, not everybody may think the same. Without proper discovery, companies will never know if it’s the right product for their customer base, so validating the solution for the product in question is crucial.

#5 Ambiguous challenges 

For product discovery to work, product teams need to consider all the data, feedback, and research that they acquire throughout both the exploration and validation phases. Once a challenge or challenges are unearthed, companies can often skip right to the validation phase, but that’s a mistake. Product teams need to drill down further to ensure they’ve uncovered the root of the problem that’s been identified. 

Product teams can avoid ambiguous challenges by clearly defining the target user, their current problem and workaround, the company’s proposed approach, success criteria, and the business value. 

Product Discovery Techniques

There are several techniques that companies can utilize to conduct product discovery.

Product Discovery Methods 

Exploration phase

During the exploration phase, product teams should consider conducting customer interviews, taking a deep dive into competitor analysis, and looking at product analytics to learn and understand their customers and their pain points. 

Validation phase

Once the initial research has been conducted, it’s time to look at the data that’s been gathered and decide which challenge the new product will alleviate. The five why’s is a great technique to achieve this. The method involves taking a surface-level issue, and then scrutinizing it until the root cause of the issue is found, i.e. asking ‘why’ five times, or until the underlying problem is identified. 

Now, it’s time to derive a solution to the problem that’s been outlined. This involves brainstorming ideas, prioritizing which features and capabilities should be incorporated into the product, and then finally, prototyping and testing it.

Product Discovery Framework

A product discovery framework provides structure and guidance for the overall process. To get from the problem to the solution, a product team’s framework should look a bit like this:

  1. Discover – this is where the team learns and understands what the problem is that needs to be resolved by the product, or the underlying need
  2. Define – once the issue has been identified, it needs to be defined and agreed upon by everyone involved 
  3. Develop – now, the team needs to ideate the solution to the problem, and develop a prototype
  4. Deliver – finally, the prototype needs to be tested to ensure that it successfully alleviates the issue that was first identified

The Benefits of Improving Product Discovery

There are five key benefits to improving product discovery.

  1. Helps to establish a target audience through in-depth customer research
  2. Reduces production costs as companies don’t need to invest heavily early on in the product development cycle
  3. Increases product value as the product has been designed with the customer’s needs at its core
  4. Highlights and eliminates risks as the product team has already unearthed the risks associated with a product during the discovery process 
  5. Speeds up product development as all the features and functions of the product have been carefully considered to fit the customers’ needs

People Also Ask

What is the outcome of product discovery?

When performed correctly, the outcome of an effective product discovery process is well-thought-out products that provide real value to customers.

When is product discovery needed?

Product discovery is needed when a company starts to look at developing a new product. Significant research should be undertaken before a product is built, which is why the product discovery process is vital to ensuring that a new product provides true value to customers. 

Who is responsible for product discovery?

Usually, the product manager, designer, and engineer are the key members of the product discovery team, however, sometimes other team members need to get involved, such as those in product marketing or sales