Products and Their Usefulness
When I start to work with new Teams or Product Owners, I ask the question "What is your Product?". Often the first answer is a list of functions and features. In the second attempt, then they describe the purpose from the view of the engineers and designers, and how they intend it. Very seldom do they mention customer demand.
So, let's raise the question again in a small variant: "What is a Product?"
Multiple answers are possible:
- A product is a vehicle of value — Scrum Guide.
- A product satisfies a customer/user need or problem (problem-fit) — Lean startup
- A product has to fit the market, so we can create a sustainable business from it. — Business perspective,
- A product is bought („hired“) to get a „job“ done until it is “laid-off”. Jobs are functional, with emotional and social components. — Job to be Done Theory (Christensen 2016), Outcome-Driven Innovation (Ulwick 1999).
Roman Pichler defines "Product" as
“Something that creates specific Value for a group of people, the Customers and Users, and to the organisation that develops and provides it.”
— (Pichler 2016, Jun 14)
Functionality is only one facet of the Product. For a complete picture, there are many other aspects additional. Product Usefulness is related to the Product Value Proposition and Product Mission.
- The Product Value Proposition is a statement that clearly identifies the benefits a company's products and services will deliver to its customers. A well-crafted value proposition will differentiate the company and/or its specific product or service in the marketplace and among a target market or target audience.
- A Product Mission is a clear, concise statement that explains the product's highest-level purpose. It clarifies who the product serves and what it does for them. It also identifies what makes the product unique and answers the question: “What difference do you hope your product will make for the customer/user?”
Product usefulness is the outcome of using the product. It is the impact the usage has. It is not the output, the amount of features the product has.
Customers did not buy our product because of the features, but because of the outcomes (benefits), they assume to get triggered by these features. According to (Huryn 2022 Jun. 1) there are three different types of outcomes a product may trigger:
- Functional Outcomes. – The core tasks the customer/user wants to get done. A car, it’s travelling from point A to B. At this level, it doesn’t even matter whether it’s a VW beetle, a Rolls-Royce, or an Uber.
- Emotional Outcomes. – How do customers want to feel or avoid feeling as a result of using your product? Is it safety, freedom, joy, or taking care of the environment?
- Social Outcomes. – How do customers want to be perceived by others by using your product? What does driving Dacia or Ferrari tell others about your status or values?
- ...at least of all the mix of all makes the complexity.
Products Have to Solve Problems
Customers/users want to get solved the problems they have. Thus, they search for proper solutions or tools to support them — or best, for products to solve their problems for them.
"Customers/users don’t give a damn about your product features. – They strive for solutions."
– (Huryn 2022 Jun. 1)
In Product Development are many approaches to align products with purpose and usefulness.
- Job to be Done Theory (Christensen 2016), Outcome-Driven Innovation (Ulwick 1999). — People buy („hire“) products or services to get a „job“ done until they are “lays-them-off”. Jobs are functional, with emotional and social components.
- Great products inspire & empower customers (Cagan 2018, 2020).
- With great products, customers/users fall in love, they are immediately hooked to them (Eyal 2014).
Customers did not buy our product because of their features, but because of the outcomes (benefits) that were triggered by these features (Huryn 2022 Jun. 1).
In this context the following terms are relevant.
- Product-Solution Fit: The evidence that a product, or a service, solves a customer’s problem. When customers/users care about certain jobs, pains, and gains we have evidence that a product, or a service, solves a customer’s problem. Product-Solution-Fit is a validation of our solution. We test it with prototypes and MVPs. And if we have no Solution-Fit we iterate or pivot our development.
- Product-Market Fit: This term comes from Steve Blank's customer development model (Blank 2013). We have a Market-Fit when customers/users are buying our products just as fast as we can build them, or when usage increases faster than we can scale production. In contrast, we have no Product-Market-Fit when customers/users don't fully understand what value our product or service actually provides (Andresen 2007, Jul. 31). The product fits the market, so we can create a sustainable business from it. Product-Market-Fit is a growth and scale-up indicator.
- Andresen, Marc (2007, Jul. 31): Part 7. Why a startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much. Pmarchive, Jul. 31, 2007. https://fictivekin.github.io/pmarchive-jekyll//guide_to_startups_part7.html.
- Blank, Steve (2013): 4 Steps to the Epiphany. K&S Ranch. 5. edition 2013.
- Cagan, Marty (2020): EMPOWERED: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products (Silicon Valley Product Group). Wiley; 1. Edition, 2020.
- Cagan, Marty (2018): INSPIRED: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love (Silicon Valley Product Group). Wiley; 2. Edition, 2018.
- Christensen, Clayton M (2016): Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change). Harvard Business Review Press; Reprint Edition, 2016.
- Eyal, Nir (2014): Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Portfolio Penguin, 2014.
- Huryn, Paweł (2022 Jun. 1): I'm sorry. Customers don’t give a damn about your Product Features. Medium.com, 2022 Jun. 1. https://bootcamp.uxdesign.cc/im-sorry-Customers-don-t-give-a-damn-about-your-Product-Features-2aa67f88d62b
- Pichler, Roman (2016, Jun 14): What is a Digital Product? Medium.com. https://romanpichler.medium.com/what-is-a-digital-Product-117ed4a96f25.
- Ulwick, Antony W. (1999): Jobs to be Done. Theory to Practice. Idea Bite Press, 1999.
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