Discovery for Established Products

One of the first things you do as a PM joining an existing product team is to assess the lay of the land. Get to know the team, understand the current roadmap and priorities. The first few weeks go fast and before long you’re up to speed with the day to day.

At that point the fun stuff begins. You start asking the ‘why’ questions.

I was at this point very recently so wanted to share how I approach discovery on a large existing product, plotting out a course to sprint-level discovery in the near future.

This post, and my end goal of continuous discovery was inspired by this Teresa Torres keynote. Do go have a watch if you haven’t already seen it.

In an attempt to be concise I haven’t listed out the granular tasks from our backlog to achieve each phase, do message me if this would be useful though.

Phase 1 — Goal setting

One of the challenges of coming in to an existing product is assimilating the sheer volume of collective knowledge across the team and stakeholders.

This often manifests itself in a roadmap that looks a lot like a series of projects or solutions, making it hard to drill down to the underlying aims or assumptions that surfaced the requirement to begin with.

For this reason the first phase is focused on identifying goals. These goals should be quantitative, measurable. They could be revenue or conversion targets, they shouldn’t be of the form ‘release X feature’.

The goals might seem obvious to stakeholders, if you’re lucky they may even already be nicely documented. Identifying them is as much about establishing a shared vision as anything else.

Phase 2 — Know your customers

The advantage of setting goals up front is it allows you to head into the ‘what do we already know’ phase with a clear focus. If there’s a gap in the research that isn’t relevant to your goal, it doesn’t matter.

The aim in phase 2 is to compile all existing research and data sources into a single living document detailing everything about our customers that helps us towards the goal.

For now, concentrate on the knowns. You’ll find it in documentation, dashboards, reports, analytics, and in the heads of your team and stakeholders. Your aim is to get everything into a single place, flagging key areas and insights.

Then, move on to the unknowns. What questions came up from compiling the research that are relevant to your goal? Book in the time to answer those, update your insights document.

We’re currently using value proposition canvas & living decks to synthesise findings, but how you document and disseminate your end result isn’t as important as the activity itself.

Next steps

In the next post I’ll cover where we take this knowledge next as we move into opportunities and solutions. While you’re waiting for us to complete that work (and me to write a post about it..) go have a look at the opportunity-solution tree to get an idea of how we’re approaching this.