Keys to Successful Product Definition

In my last post, I discussed some of the key questions around market definition and suggested that in most situations, answers to these questions are needed before going into product or service definition. My rationale is simple

  • There are many possible product or service definitions possible for a single market.
  • I believe that optimal product definition is a collaborative process.
  • Product definition needs to be iterative.

The first point should be obvious. There are build, buy, partner options. Leveraging different technology and orginizational capabilities lead to different product definitions. Etc.

Collaborating on product definition is critical and often misunderstood. It's not just about interviewing customers, stakeholders, and subject matter experts, or reviewing competitive intelligence. These are inputs. Product definition is performed best when one or more problems are well defined, a small cross functional team is brought together to consider scenarios, weigh options and make recommendations. The best Product Managers and Product Owners understand this and become facilitators of this process leading a team to codevelop a solution and own the result. The best product owners are adept at defining the problem, finding the best team to brainstorm and facilitating the discussion. They also recognize when a team is disconnected and whether to regroup with different members or escalate to management.

Finally, the best product owners know that time is limited. In defining a product, one must choose what problems to work on in what priority. They also understand that knowledge is obtained over time and through various learning engagements. So product definition is iterative by definition, and the most important problems are worked on until a 'good enough' solution is defined.

So why market definition before product? Because defining the market sets the boundaries and scope for product definition and helps the Product Owner engage his team on a collaborative, iterative process.

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