Add Value to Your Products Through Continuous Discovery

By Soofia Inayat, Senior Mobile Product Manager, Cognizant Softvision

Including Continuous Discovery in development sprints can make a huge difference in your existing products. If your initial Product Discovery process answered the question, “what are we building?”, then Continuous Discovery should allow you to evolve your answer.

It’s refinement based on experience, action based on knowledge. It’s the opportunity to address actual customers’ feedback or adapt to changing market conditions.

Continuous Discovery acknowledges that it’s not enough to ship a product or service today, then start a new assignment tomorrow. Instead, you must continue to pursue the objective you set out to solve with your product in the first place. You should continue making major enhancements, like modifications to existing features and adding new features.

Here’s an example: recently, our team deployed an updated feature to a client’s mobile application. Previously, users could search for a colleague’s contact information through the app, and now with the update, those users can download the employee contact to their iOS or Android contacts list. While it may seem like a simple, intuitive feature that makes life just a bit easier for the employees, the truth is that we wouldn’t have deployed this change unless we’d taken the time to listen to our users to see which problems they wanted solved.

Read on for a few techniques that you, too, can use to bring continuous discovery into your products.

Listen to Your Customers

Customers’ needs and wants are not simple. Customers are complex, and tend to think with their hearts as well as their heads. They can be irrational, doing or asking for things that make no sense to you or to the company.

However, customers can also be surprisingly creative, especially if you listen to what they want. Customer insights can shed light on new use cases that you never considered, and they can introduce new value to your product in ways you never expected.

Gather Data

Of course, major decisions about product roadmaps should never be made without taking other things into consideration. Collect data about your users– arm yourself with their preferences and their usage. Study analytics and reporting that tell you how users flow through your product.

Once you’ve prepared yourself with this data, gather feedback from a broad range of users. Some ways you can engage with customers and gather feedback for discovery include surveys, moderated interview sessions and discovery workshops.

While surveys are a basic, important tool in any UX designer’s toolbox, they don’t have to be the only one. Another and even more effective way to engage with your user base is via workshops.

Workshops spark curiosity and inspire empathy and teamwork between brand and user. They are a great way to go beyond measuring the baseline. A well executed workshop can change the dynamic between customer and company, changing your users from passive to interactive, aware to invested. Workshops provide a forum for open dialogue that makes it easier for design teams to understand product problems and what could be done to better meet peoples’ needs.

Gain Leadership Buy-In with Stakeholder Workshops

Client suggestions are great, but they’ll never get implemented without the approval of product leaders and other stakeholders. So how do you get stakeholders involved in the continuous discovery process?

Hold a stakeholder workshop.

An important part of any stakeholder workshop involves reviewing and discussing the real-world problems discovered from your customer discovery process. There are different ways of dissecting the client feedback, but one way that has worked well in my experience is to organize the suggested product improvements into three categories:

  1. Deliberate Enhancements make known changes to improve current features of an existing product, adding value and providing loyalty to the product.
  2. Frequency Enhancements introduce more features to the product or promote features that the customer might not be using.
  3. Adoption Enhancements are new features that are added that customers do not currently use, but that could bring in new users or provide value later on.

Discuss the pros and cons within each category. This approach can be applied at any stage of product design or to any industry.

Some of the Best Ideas Come from Your Team

With so much focus on opinions of end users and the project stakeholders, it would be easy to forget to ask the team members working on the product in question for their feedback. But that would be a big mistake. Some of the best ideas come from the team. After all, they’re deeply invested and involved in the product and its long-term success.

To engage your team in the continuous discovery process, they must have a regular and convenient time set aside to ask questions and listen to answers. This is not just a chance for product owners or stakeholders to communicate their vision. This is an opportunity for team members, at all levels of seniority and experience, to raise concerns about what’s being done, how it’s being done, why it’s worthwhile, and whether or not there is a better way.

At the core of Continuous Discovery is a commitment to comprehensive communication. By involving customers, stakeholders, and product teammates alike in a continuous process of open dialogue and product feedback for discovery, not only will your products benefit but so will your shared vision for the future of the brand.

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