In this keynote from #mtpcon London, C. Todd Lombardo reminds us that as product managers we often make bad decisions. The key to minimising these, he says, is effective product research.
- All product managers make bad decisions
- To minimise the number we need to spend time doing effective product research – a combination of user research, market research and product analytics
- By getting more curious about your data and asking the right questions you can inspire action with insight
- To be really effective you’ll need to build habits around your organisation so this happens constantly
C. Todd explains that even the most experienced and effective product managers make bad decisions. He references a study by The Standish Group who researched 2,000 software projects and found that 45% of the features shipped were never used.
Ultimately, he says, these bad decisions – and their negative outcomes – are the result of poor product research.
Of course, there are many reasons for a lack of product research (it’s usually budget), but as there aren’t many easier ways to improve your output by 45% – product research should be a top priority.
What is Product Research?
Research requires more than just evidence. It requires rigour, repetition, and insight to build a full picture of a situation.
- User research is trying to build empathy
- Market research is looking at the potential of a specific economy
- Product analytics show you how people are using your product
Product research is a combination of all three.
Prepare to be Wrong, Because you Will be
We all want to be right. However, to be successful you need to leave your ego behind and check your assumptions. Becoming comfortable with being wrong makes you more likely to get to the right product in the end.
Get Curious With Your Data
Start with whatever data you have and use it to generate questions that investigate the context of your users. You should hone in on a specific question. This should be tight and demonstrate an understanding of the underlying problem you’re trying to solve.
Diagnostic questions ask more broadly why a user does what they do. So, rather than ask someone about the coffee they like or want, we can ask them about the cup they have and what they normally do with it. This means people don’t have to try to imagine any future behaviour. We can focus on the real situation and the problems that people face.
Run Interviews, not Interrogations
You shouldn’t try to confirm your own views when you interview users, instead you should try to deeply understand their problems. You can do this by acting like a journalist – investigate what they say and dig a little deeper, asking questions that start with “tell me about” to open up the conversation. Then stay quiet and listen to what people say – not just with their words but with the physical and emotional cues they give you too.
Go Beyond the Interviews
You can only truly understand a customer if you spend time with them when they’re using your product. You have to spend time in their shoes, doing the types of jobs that they do. Then the products you build will start to address the problems people have, rather than problems you think they have.
Inspire Actions Through Insights
No one reads dense research reports. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t create them, but rather that they won’t be useful in getting your message across to other people in your company.
Stories and co-creation are more effective in moving people so focus on showing them these either through prototypes or workshops.
Make Research a Habit
Most companies don’t do any kind of user research. If you want your company to move in line with your customers, then you need to create more chances to engage with them. By creating a regular opportunity for users to come to your office, then you can effect cultural change which everyone will buy into. You don’t need to run massive discovery projects – you can do bits and pieces all the time which have a real impact.