Great product discovery is key to delivering products that people love to use.
This is because the more effective your discovery, the more successfully you can solve customer problems and design solutions that meet their needs. And when you do this well, your products will resonate with end users.
Discovery is also key to catching issues and preventing any potential failures early on, as well as characterizing opportunities and flushing out any solutions that aren’t going to go down as successfully as you’d hoped during the ideation stage.
But how do you measure whether your product discovery process is creating real value and impact for your teams and helping to guide successful product development? And how do you ensure this process is continuously improving?
Here are four key steps to measuring and improving the value and impact of your product discovery process.
1. Clarify the goals of your product discovery
Product discovery is all about gathering real-world evidence and data to guide product development.
But if you don’t have a clear view of what you want to achieve during discovery, you’ll struggle to understand what type of data you need to collect – and what to do with it.
So, the first step is to clarify which specific insights you’re looking for, which key decisions you need to make and what data you can collect to support these.
Your goals could include:
- Understanding and characterizing customer challenges, problems, needs and preferences
- Identifying new market opportunities
- Validating demand for new products or features
- Improving the customer experience
- Reducing development costs
- Reducing innovation, feature and product failure rates
Once you’ve articulated your goals, you can then track how efficiently and effectively you’re meeting those goals and analyze how you can improve.
2. Measuring progress toward your goals
To measure how valuable and effective your discovery process is, you’ll want to track how effectively you’re progressing towards achieving your goals.
A common way to do this is by using metrics.
For example, suppose your goal is to validate market demand. In that case, you could measure your progress using metrics like the number of customer interviews you’ve conducted over the last quarter or the percentage of new ideas you’ve validated.
Other metrics could include:
- The number of new opportunities you’ve identified
- The percentage of new ideas you’ve thrown out
- How users are engaging with the existing product or prototype
- Customer satisfaction scores and positive feedback
The only thing to note here is that these metrics are known as ‘lagging indicators' of product success. This means that they’re useful for measuring past performance and its impact on the outcomes of your discovery activities, but can’t provide much insight into how you can improve.
This is where ‘leading indicators' come in. Leading indicators help inform you on how to improve your progress toward your goals. And a prime example of a leading indicator is the cadence of your discovery activities. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next section.
3. Track the cadence of discovery activities
Cadence refers to the cycle of time that passes between each time you perform a particular activity. In other words, how often you perform a certain discovery task.
For example, measuring cadence might involve tracking how long it takes you to validate a new idea or how much time passes between conducting customer interviews.
However, there’s no set rule as to what your cadence for particular activities should be. Ideal cycle time will vary depending on the nature and complexity of your product, as well as the nature of what you’re discovering.
For example, cycle time for feature discovery should be ongoing and frequent (best practice for feature discovery is at least one customer interview per week, for instance). Big initiatives, on the other hand, will be more short-lived but potentially more intense.
If you’re seeing particularly long cycles between activities, that’s likely a key indicator that your discovery process could do with some improvement. You wouldn’t want a particularly long cycle between throwing out new ideas or identifying new opportunities, for example, because that could mean you’re not working as efficiently as you could be or making the most out of your resources.
Measuring your cadence over time is a great way to track how effective your discovery is and how you can improve. If you see cycles for certain activities start to reduce, that means you’re starting to learn more quickly and perform these activities more efficiently.
You can also set goals to reduce the maximum number of days that pass between each cycle. Start small by making an activity a habit, then you can improve the frequency and reduce cadence over time.
In essence, cadence is key to continuous improvement — which is what an impactful and valuable product discovery process is all about.
4. Hold regular retrospective meetings
Lastly, it’s important to regularly get together with your product teams to reflect on your discovery activities and assess their impact. This is a key way to continuously improve and get the most value out of your discovery process.
This could involve conducting retrospectives, where you review with your team what went well, what didn’t go so well, and how you can improve. Key topics for discussion might include:
- What did we get wrong?
- What did we get right?
- What could we have learned sooner?
- What surprised us?
- How could we have uncovered an issue more quickly?
- Why did a certain product feature fail?
- Should we have gotten specific teams or people involved sooner?
Once you’ve discussed these points in detail, you can reflect on ways to improve and refine your discovery process, uncover any blindspots or pitfalls earlier and learn faster.