One of the biggest challenges a young product founder or product manager has is learning the best way to build a product is to get out of their own way. Product Managers are surrounded by great idea funnels filled with product suggestions and opportunities and in order to be fully successful in their role of building a great product and business, one of the first things they need to learn is to leave the ego and gut feelings behind on what they should be building but instead use a consistent data-driven workflow to allow the best ideas to bubble up to the top.
Here are a number of ways a product manager can use data to drive product features to ensure the new product or feature they are working on is putting the most important changes on their product roadmap.
Apply ICE to your ideas
There are a number of variations of the formula but the most simple is to look at every idea and say what is the impact of the change, What is the Effort I need to apply to accomplish the idea, How confident am I in my effort and impact understandings. Each item is ranked 1 through 10 with 10 being the high score and 1 being the low score on the scale. When applied, you have a consistent view of your ideas and naturally, the best ideas will bubble up and become visible because they have the highest scores. Every product manager looks at an idea and does a swag to figure out if the effort or impact is there. ICE gives you a consistent way to apply it.
Verify the idea popularity
There are many tools available today to product managers to present ideas to users and have them communicate a consensus the idea is a good one. This can be as simple as a list of ideas on a community forum which gets a thumbs up if they agree or thumbs down if they do not think the idea is a good one. If you have users of your product, having them validate the idea will improve their experience will always be golden for product managers. The added benefit of this approach is that users are able to see their voice is heard and made an impact when you take a popular idea and promote it to your product roadmap. This lets them know they are helping to drive the product and become a more satisfied customer.
Ask Your Customers using Surveys
If you are not 100% sure of the direction in general or on a specific idea, don’t guess! Today you can send out surveys and segment each survey to a small number of users that you feel would be the right group based on their usage of your product to ask. Not sure if adding a specific feature will make an impact? Ask your users using a survey and capture the results. Turn the results into requirements for the feature or decide to cancel the feature based on the results. Do you have a number of competing features that you feel are all value added but can’t decide which one to use? Ask your customers using a survey and they will tell you which will make the most impact on their use of your product.
For product management the more you can apply a consistent formula which balances the cost of the effort against the reward using something like the ICE formula you will immediately see which ideas should be worked on. In addition to improving your swag, always go to your customers for idea validation. The data they can provide you regarding the popularity of an idea and confirmation in a survey can remove doubt of will the idea make a difference and give you a path forward to building out a better product. Additionally, by engaging your users in your product planning, you identify great power users and beta testers for when the feature is getting closer to launch to again close the feedback loop and complete another round of validation.