How putting users first leads to better product development

Part 1: Start a journey of discovery

Ollie Francis

June 24, 2018

Do you have a digital product that you know could perform better? Are you concerned about reduced sales or losing members? It may be that you have increased competition which is affecting your market share or you are worried about disruption in your sector.

Redeveloping your existing digital product can be expensive and time consuming, but if you get it right it could revitalise the business in an ever changing and digital centric world.

This series of articles addresses how you can deploy rapid user-centred product development sprints to effectively develop your product and win back your customers’ hearts and minds.

Get back to basics

Why was this tool or product created? Most likely someone had a brilliant idea about how to solve the customer’s problem and a plan to make some money. There was hopefully a ‘why’ behind all that; a reason the business did this, driven by the values of the founders and/or team.

Getting back to that original ‘why’ is essential when considering where to go next. This requires you to get in a place that allows you to be more objective and less pressured, so you can put aside the day to day for at least an hour or so and explore if that ‘why’ still stands.

You need help. The best thing to do is get someone external to help you look in. It’s tempting to do this process internally; you may feel you have the resources, so why buy them in? Because it will go to the bottom of your pile at the first sign of some new business or if a business problem comes along. You’re human.

Who can help? The ideal candidate is a consultant or consultancy that specialise in digital strategy, user experience or user centred design. But not just any consultant, one that is aligned with your business culture and direction.

    • Ask for a recommendation from someone you trust and who knows your business well. They may have been through this process themselves.
    • Don’t just write an RFP. Meet with the potential help and have a conversation. See if the chemistry is there before you start. Are they good at listening? If so, they will help extract at least the initial brief.
    • Found your guys? Start small. Get a quote for the initial workshop or discovery part alone, plus ask for example costings for similar projects. You don’t need to quantify it all now, it will be too hard.
    • Assemble a small team of key players. Bring your A Team. Don’t bring 15 people just incase. You’ll need:
      • Decision maker – They need to enable the team to start and remove blocks
      • Customer expert – They talk to the customers a lot and have a good idea of what they want
      • Operations expert – They understand the business processes and what the staff do everyday
      • Data expert – They know the data that sits behind the product inside-out

These people should be involved throughout the project, so make sure they can be. Having a consistent team will help ensure the goals you define upfront are achieved.

Sorted? Great, now you can begin.

Embrace the chaos

This will likely take the form of a meeting, often referred to as a ‘Discovery’ or ‘kick-off’ workshop. This is the part where you have to put solutions aside. This is the messy bit. Enjoy it. A good consultant will facilitate and keep you focused. There may be some homework, make sure you do it and come prepared.

You need to discuss:

  • What you’ve got. What does the current version of the tool or product do and why?
  • The problem. What’s going on? What are your customers or staff complaining about? What is the pain?
  • Your customers. Who uses it and what broadly do they want to achieve?
  • Goals. What’s the big idea? What would success look like? How will you measure it?
  • Requirements. What must it do to keep the business and customers going?
  • Next steps. Agree a way forward, the consultant will have a plan, listen to it and make plans together.

After this meeting you will probably feel elated and exhausted. You should have explored the inner depths of the business, who your customers are and start to have a glimmer of how brilliant the next version of the product could be. All the cards should be on the table at this point, you should have a pretty solid idea of the ‘why’ and that gives you a great foundation for the rest of the project. Go for it!

How are you using customer experience in your product development? Tell us your success stories, we’d love to hear from you.

In the next article we’ll explore customers needs. Any good digital product should be built around it’s customers’ needs. Our next blog will explore that process and how to get the best out of it. Read it here.

Got a question? Need some help with your product? Get in touch with Ollie.