Tuesday, April 23

Continuous Discovery: Why Is It So Important For Product Teams

The attempt with discovery is trying to figure the right solutions to build. What would customers or users find most valuable? The product team attempts to refine whatever ideas they might have to ensure they match what customers truly need.

Product discovery phase was mostly thought of – more or less – as a one-time event. It’s something you do at a stage, spanning multiple weeks, to come up with and validate items for the product backlog. But experience shows that such an approach was definitely not the best.

It is increasingly being advocated that product teams should adopt continuous discovery instead. This entails seeing discovery as an ongoing process. Teams are encouraged to treat it as part of what they do at regular intervals.

Noted product discovery coach Teresa Torres defines this process as “weekly touchpoints with customers, by the team building the product, where they conduct small research activities, in pursuit of a desired product outcome.”

You can, therefore, think of continuous discovery as part of what a product team would do every week. It involves interaction with a section of users, plus experimentation, to develop and improve product ideas.

This is not a newly introduced idea – Marty Cagan wrote about it back in 2012. The former product leader at eBay and HP noted in the Silicon Valley Product Group post that there was already an increasing trend towards the practice at the time.

Why Should You Consider Continuous Discovery?

If you work in an organization focusing on a product-led growth strategy, then continuous discovery is something you want to take seriously. It improves your chances of building products that delight the customer.

Let’s face it: the extent to which product teams do discovery continuously determines the level of success they achieve.

More and more companies, especially those in the services and software spaces, are adopting product-led growth as their go-to-market strategy. The success of such organizations depends greatly on how well they are able to satisfy the user. However, making products highly valuable and satisfactory to users isn’t just there for the taking – it can be very hard to pull off.

Continuous discovery can make it easier for you to know those things that will help you to deliver more value to your customers.

By doing discovery constantly, you will be in a better position to use your time more productively. It can help to break free from the trap of devoting almost all the time you have to track issues and managing tasks.

Are there better things you should be working on? You may not be able to answer that question most accurately unless you’re doing continuous discovery. It is an unending process of idea identification and validation to enable you to prioritize more effectively and build more compelling products.

Imagine how much success you’d have if your team delivers just features and products that give the greatest value to customers!

It may be argued that failure to see the discovery as an ongoing process is a reason many new launches fail.

How to Succeed with Continuous Discovery

It is critical to take the right steps and have the correct mindset for your team to record significant success with continuous discovery. Here are a few tips to help.

Realize discovery is never done

Well, this is the basis of continuous discovery – realizing that discovery is never-ending. This is what Torres describes as the “Continuous Mindset,” which you may deem the opposite of the project mindset. You don’t do a little discovery, build and ship, and then move on to the next project.

You want to constantly ensure that whatever decisions you are making have the customer at the center of them. It makes things feel like you’re creating solutions together with your customers. It removes faulty assumptions that only require customer validation at a later time, which could prove costly.

Continuous discovery is half of what is known as dual-track agile and produces backlog items. The other half is the continuous delivery track that sees to the nonstop building, testing, and deployment of those items. This means discovery and delivery should be ongoing processes that are integrated.

Link to roadmap

The ideal product roadmaps these days are usually the flexible types offering some wiggle room in the course of development. It also helps to ensure that your strategic document has a clear link to discovery activities. Every item should have something to explain its inclusion.

Your continuous discovery activities generate the item on your roadmap and backlog. Essentially, you get a roadmap that is discovery-driven to help enhance the development process.

The Opportunity Solution Tree can help to see clearly what discovery activities back items on your roadmap. After identifying your desired outcomes, you then proceed to discover those opportunities that can impact those outcomes. The final step would be to discover solutions for those opportunities.

Encourage true collaboration

Most product teams know the importance of collaboration, but how they go about it is often flawed. Cross-functional teams don’t always work in a manner that promotes the greatest efficiency. Team members, in some cases, seem to focus exclusively on their immediate areas of interest.

True collaboration entails doing everything together. It doesn’t mean, for instance, including an engineer to handle technology issues or a designer to come up with a design. The aim instead should be to deliberate all matters together to discover the best way to achieve the desired outcome. A good product roadmap tool helps product teams to promote ideas for roadmap prioritization and helps teams to collaborate effectively.

It is important to note also that collaboration doesn’t always entail a consensus or giving in to the opinion of a superior. Everyone should have their say and final decisions should be influenced by that in one way or another. The product roadmap will be greatly helpful in promoting a shared understanding and a more effective collaboration.

Run the right experiments

There are cases where product teams allow their assumptions to have too much influence on the choice of experiments they run. They assume their ideas or solutions will work as expected, so they ignore certain crucial experiments.

For instance, a bias toward A/B testing has been observed among product teams. While it can help to assess whether you’re achieving the right effect, it is by no chance the best tool for discovery and it is also costly.

You carry out experiments not because you expect to succeed but more to identify what could go wrong. They help you discover how flawed your assumptions might be. It is, therefore, critical to have a wide variety of experiments in your collection and be ready to be wrong.

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