Continuous discovery is a powerful methodology to scale digital products. In this recourse, we explain what continuous discovery is, why it’s important, and how to implement it.
The process of product discovery covers everything from product research to execution. It is used whether you’re planning a new product, improving the existing functionality and value of a product, or testing the proposition of a scaling product.
By following a product discovery process, teams are better able to validate current assumptions and learn more about what their customers need. It can be used to ensure that your teams aren’t just building a product right but are instead building the right product.
There is a range of product discovery processes to utilise. For those scaling a product, here are the steps that are quite critical to get right.
1. Understanding the Users Need
The first step is to know more about the solutions that your product is providing for your customers. It means looking at the big picture rather than specifics. For product scaling, that means defining both the growth and technical challenges while monitoring ROI. For both, the key is understanding the underlying customer needs. That means conducting research, which can take the following forms:
- Customer research
- Engagement monitoring and observation
- Data analytics
- Empathy mapping
- Competitive research
Once your research is done, you need to create definitions. Knowing the needs of your product users means being able to:
- Identify Pain Points of Target Audience: What key issues is your product aiming to solve?
- Problem Validation: Does the product need to be changed, or does the existing product already solve all of the problems your users encounter?
- Prioritise Pain Points: When scaling a product, the goal is to ensure that it continues to be what your users need. Once you have identified those pain points, list them in order of importance. You can use the RICE method or one of its many alternatives to more accurately prioritise your identified problems.
2. Identifying Solutions
Now that you have your list of problems that need to be solved, they then need to be reformed into manageable tasks that are more easily solved. This is where you and your team can get creative. You’ll be ideating, prototyping, and testing the solution ideas that have been prioritised.
The ideation stage is one of the most important when scaling a product, and the continuous discovery process is reliant on it. The key is coming up with new ways to solve the problems of your users. Common methods for the ideation stage include:
- Team brainstorming
- Mind mapping
It’s important to remember that ideas at this stage can come from anyone in your organisation. Don’t stick to the same members of your team. You have access to the ideas of your workforce, your customers, company stakeholders, and everyone that has a touchpoint within your organization. Product experts are built around the team, but that can lead to an echo chamber that’s best avoided.
Continuous discovery is made much easier when you access the full range of talents across every department. You may even get an outside perspective from a product management consultant. This can be extremely high-value because you gain access to a focused set of skills and experience that can greatly enhance your ability to scale in the right way.
To make continuous discovery easier, it’s critical to have a feedback delivery process in place. This can be sent to every customer you have earned and can yield vast amounts of information. Use that feedback to learn more about their opinions.
You can do so by capturing every piece of feedback (including social media monitoring for brand mentions), review every piece of feedback, and implement changes as deemed necessary.
3. The Validation Stage
You need to ensure that the product you are scaling is going to be right. That’s going to mean asking yourself some questions. These are:
- Value: This isn’t about the cost of designing or redesigning a product or monitoring the profit margins (although setting the right price for your scaled product remains vital). Instead, it’s about whether your product changes are going to be of value to your user base. Again, consumer feedback can be critical for answering this question.
- Usability: Is your target audience going to be able to use your product easily? Usability testing needs to be done using real people from your buyer demographics. The user experience needs to be flawless.
- Feasibility: Often overlooked until it’s far too late, you need to know if your team has the capabilities to scale your product at all. Discussions will need to be had with your tech and design leads as early as possible. That way, they will have more time to evaluate feasibility.
Thanks to your feedback and customer research, you know what needs to be done. Your team has come up with creative solutions, and now it’s time to get more practical. Prototyping allows your teams to demonstrate ideas and begin bringing them to life.
There are lots of ways to implement prototyping into your continuous discovery process. You could allow sketches, clickable prototypes, MVPs, or simple mockups. You could even look at competitors’ products to show what others are doing.
5. Product Testing
Although the new product hasn’t yet been scaled, testing needs to be an ongoing process. The solutions that have been proposed all need to be tested to determine viability. There are plenty of product testing techniques and tools available to choose from. It’s best to use a combination of ongoing test methods that utilise customer interviews, surveys, and A/B testing.
You’ve identified user needs, tested solutions, and your design team has created the base model for your scaled product. Now it needs to be tested in the real world. What many product and project managers overlook is the inherent value in continuous discovery past the development stage.
Take Facebook or LinkedIn, for instance. Their continuous discovery process allowed them to continue to significantly grow and mature their products and user base over the years.
As a company scales, product life cycles are often extended. That’s going to mean a continuous process of monitoring, adjusting, and improving the scaled product.
Tip: Focus on Problems, Not Solutions
One of the most common issues that product teams encounter is that they focus on solutions rather than looking closely at the problems. While that might seem to make sense, it misses out on the key benefits of continuous discovery.
By learning more about the problems your users encounter, the shift of focus turns to how to solve those real problems. That means you won’t be wasting time on solutions that aren’t vital, necessary, or even wanted.
Knowing more about what your customers want from you and what they’re not getting from your product is the efficiency model that you simply can’t afford to dismiss when scaling a product.
Implementing a continuous discovery cadence into your scaled product development makes it much easier to identify weak product ideas. It prevents those weaker ideas from being implemented while also providing context into product value.
The more that you research your target audience and know what they need from you and your product, the easier it will be to launch a continuous discovery process.
That will result in a more streamlined approach to product development, fewer workflow roadblocks, and a system that will benefit your users and improve your ability to scale.
Image Credit: PxHere